The Mountain and the Valley Characters

Ernest Buckler

The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

David Canaan is a complex, precocious, and introverted young man, dissatisfied with the routine of physical drudgery on his family farm. If he is to some extent an autobiographical character, resembling Buckler in his mathematical precision in language and hypersensitivity to philosophical and psychological nuances, he also becomes a Christlike figure in his suffering. Indeed, the family name, the parental names of Joseph and Martha, his brother Christopher, the wounds inflicted on him, his princely role in the Christmas play, and his apotheosis at the end of the novel with the partridge soaring—all these details lend weight to this interpretation of his character. Buckler, however, is mainly interested in presenting a portrait of the artist as a young man.

David’s sensitivity to language becomes excruciatingly painful to him and to the reader as he indulges in similes and repetitions that differ from the repetitive cliches of other characters. By the end of the novel, his linguistic quest places him in a mathematical maze:

Then the forks’ forks fork, like the chicken-wire pattern of atoms.... He heard the crushing screaming challenge of the infinite permutations of the possible ... the billion raised to the billionth power.... Myself thinking of myself screaming ‘Stop,’ thinking of myself thinking of myself thinking of....

His solipsism is literally and figuratively a...

(The entire section is 532 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

David Canaan

David Canaan, a sensitive, ardent boy who is deeply involved with his family and the routines of farm life in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia yet is also increasingly drawn into a fascination with words. As he matures, his relationships with his family and his friend Toby are disrupted by life’s inevitable events and accidents, but his ability to articulate their significance develops. At the end, separated by deaths and marriages from everyone except his grandmother, he ascends the mountain and dies while experiencing a transfiguring vision of the power of the writer to capture time and reality.

Anna Canaan

Anna Canaan, the twin sister of David, to whom she is closely attuned. Their often unspoken understanding dwindles somewhat after she falls in love with and marries Toby, David’s friend, who is sometimes perceived as looking very much like David.

Toby Richmond

Toby Richmond, a pen pal and friend of David, subsequently Anna’s husband. He has dark hair, light-blue eyes, and a smooth body on which his clothes fit easily. He is open, free of affectations, and unimpressed by conventions and social stratagems. Growing up in the great port of Halifax, he always has been interested in ships; he joins the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. David often wishes that he were more like Toby.

Christopher (Chris) Canaan

Christopher (Chris) Canaan, the elder brother of David and Anna. In his acceptance of farm life...

(The entire section is 629 words.)