Mazo de la Roche Jo-Ann Fellows - Essay

Jo-Ann Fellows

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Jalna novels are a fictional expression of [the Loyalist Myth]…. The Jalna novels describe obliquely some very basic ideas of the Canadian national identity, at least of the English-speaking identity. Leaving aside a consideration of the novels as literature, they provide a most interesting source for the student of social and intellectual history.

From the time that Philip Whiteoak and his young bride emigrated to Southern Ontario …, the family accepted intrinsically the idea that they held a certain position in society. This position was one of a kind of squirearchy, or to quote de la Roche, the Courts and Whiteoaks were "gentlemen, soldiers, 'goddamming' country squires." The family dominates the immediate neighbourhood—which means that they claimed a kind of feudal authority over a small, miscellaneous collection of country bumpkins, maiden ladies of humble means, the local clergymen and a few farm hands. (p. 284)

The elemental, basic quality of the authority exercised by the Whiteoaks is repeated often in the books. It is organic and timeless, based on the family group, the tribe, the clan and eventually the kingdom, with a religious re-inforcement…. The maintenance and the function of the family on the basis of these forces is the most important value in the novels. This authority demands a limiting of the choices available to the individuals in the family, but it is also provides for mutual protection and...

(The entire section is 604 words.)