Philip Child D. G. Jones - Essay

D. G. Jones

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Village of Souls is set in French Canada prior to the Conquest and takes for its theme that cultural dilemma which plagues the settler in the New World. Though Jornay has deliberately committed himself to the New World, his conscious ideal remains that of the Old, as he soon discovers when he meets Lys, a blonde and beautiful Parisienne. Lys is the representative of European culture, sophisticated in every sense of the word…. Lys becomes Jornay's stone angel. He falls in love with her and marries her, on the condition that he take her back to France, the last place in the world he wants to go.

The return is prevented, however, by the appearance of Anne. Dark, untutored, a half-breed girl who has come out of the heart of the continent full of vague dreams about white men and their ships with great white sails, she is everything that Lys is not. (pp. 45-6)

Later, however, when Lys [disappears and is] given up for dead, Jornay begins to recognize in Anne the qualities he admires and needs in his life in the New World…. Despite his continued attachment to Lys … he marries the girl. Yet Lys is not dead. Thus he becomes married to both, a situation which admirably symbolizes the psychological situation and the cultural dilemma from which it springs. Psychologically Jornay still suffers a split personality. The integration of his personality is effected, in Jungian terms, through a night journey into the unconscious, dramatized here by a journey through burned-over country to an Indian village that has been devastated by smallpox. This is the village of souls, and here they find Lys, the sole survivor, hardly more than a shade among shades. Only after Lys has been exorcised, only after she has stripped him of his illusions and herself expired like a wraith in a dream, does Jornay turn to embrace the girl Anne wholly and without reservation. (p. 46)

D. G. Jones, "Eve in Dejection," in his Butterfly on Rock: Images in Canadian Literature (© University of Toronto Press, 1970), University of Toronto Press 1976, pp. 33-56.∗