(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Maria Chapdelaine was a French-Canadian girl whose family lived in the northern part of Quebec province near Lake St. John, a country to which spring came very late in the year and the winters, always severe, came too soon. Maria’s father, Samuel Chapdelaine, had moved his family several times to new locations in the north country. Each time, he hoped to get away from neighbors and civilization, for he was a man who took great delight in the hard work of clearing land from the wilderness but disliked to farm that land after it had been won.

When she was in her late teens, Maria Chapdelaine was sent to spend part of one winter with relatives in town. Her father met her on her return to Peribonka, the settlement nearest to the farm, and they stayed in the village overnight in order to attend church before leaving for their home in the wilderness. At church, they met Francois Paradis, a young man who had lived near the Chapdelaines in another location some years before: Young Francois, who had last seen Maria seven years earlier when she was as yet a child, was much impressed by her beauty and manner, and promised to visit the Chapdelaines soon. When he appeared at their house ten days later, Maria learned for the first time of the age-old difference between those men who are born farmers and those who are born pioneers, between those who seek an ordered life cultivating the land, and those who are only happy with a life of adventure and wandering. Maria had grown up in a family that extolled the virtues and joys of life on the land; but the reappearance of handsome Francois Paradis, who had left his father’s farm to become a wandering lumberjack, made her question her previous assumptions for the first time. Before the visit was over, the young man had fallen deeply in love with Maria, and he promised to visit the family on his way into the back country to trade for furs with the Indians.

The following summer was one of hard work for the entire Chapdelaine family. The women, including Maria, had their part in putting away food for the winter and taking care of the men’s needs as they reclaimed farmland from the forest by cutting away the trees and underbrush and removing the stumps that were left. The first break in the difficult and tedious work came near the end of July, when the blueberries ripened. At that time, everyone stopped work to go on a berrypicking expedition.

The night before the berrypicking, Francois Paradis arrived at the Chapdelaine cabin. The next day, he and Maria wandered off from the rest of the berrypickers. After they had filled their large pails with berries, they sat down to rest. Francois, in an offhand manner that betrayed the emotion he felt, asked Maria to marry him the following year. He told her that he would be back to visit her once again before going off into the woods to act as foreman of a logging crew during the winter.

The summer passed with all the hard work attendant on carving a farm from the Canadian forests. Before long, the winds of...

(The entire section is 1238 words.)