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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 445

I would identify two main themes, or groups of themes, in Louis Hémon's novel. The first can be seen as relating to the forces of nature and the persistent response of human beings to nature, and the second is the principle of human loyalty to one's people and background.

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The story is as much a description of farming life in Northern Quebec as it is the personal story of a young girl, Maria, coming of age in that environment. The bruising toil of the farmers in the harsh climate is told in detail. As everywhere, rural people are at the mercy of the elements, but in the far north the situation is worse given the length of winter, the severity of the cold and snow, and the brevity of summer in which even a mild drought can result in a poor harvest and near starvation for the animals. But people have the primal urge to deal with it, to persist in their struggle instead of just giving up or moving away and resettling in a less forbidding part of the world. It's this unending effort to go on living, against the odds, that forms the heart of the story.

This leads us to the second major theme, of loyalty to one's background. Maria's first love interest, François, is frozen to death in a snowstorm when coming on foot to visit her. Of the two other men interested in her, one of them, Lorenzo, has lived in the U.S. and asks Maria to marry him and go there with him, to the much easier kind of life made possible by both the less harsh climate and by new technology. In the early twentieth century, rural people in...

(The entire section contains 445 words.)

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