Ross, Sinclair 1908-1996
Canadian novelist and short story writer.
Ross is best known for his novels and short stories about life on the prairies of western Canada. Much of his work is set during the Depression era and depicts the severity of frontier life and the destructive power of natural forces. Generally considered naturalistic, Ross's fiction is characterized by distinctive regional language, economical prose, powerful descriptions of western Canadian landscapes, and a lack of sentimentality. In his most notable works, As For Me and My House and The Lamp at Noon and Other Stories, Ross's characters struggle to remain hopeful despite the universe's apparent indifference to their sufferings.
Ross was born on a 160-acre homestead twelve miles from the town of Shellbrook, Saskatchewan. His parents separated when he was seven, and his mother, the daughter of Scottish-born clergyman, supported the family by working as a housekeeper. After finishing the eleventh grade Ross began a lifelong career at the Royal Bank of Canada, intermittently living in such Canadian cities as Abbey, Lancer, Arcola, Winnipeg, and Montreal. He served in the army during World War II from 1942 to 1946. After retiring from the Royal Bank in 1968 Ross lived in Greece and Spain before returning to Canada in 1980. He died in 1996.
Major Works of Short Fiction
Ross became interested in writing when he was ten and first submitted a story for publication at age sixteen. In 1934 his short story "No Other Way" was published by the English magazine Nash's Pall-Mail. Between 1934 and 1952 Ross published fifteen short stories that were later revised and collected in The Lamp at Noon and Other Stories. These stories realistically depict rural life in Saskatchewan during the 1930s and are centered around familial relationships. In "The Lamp at Noon," for instance, a three-day dust storm quells a farm woman's determination to overcome her extreme poverty and ultimately causes her to go insane. In "A Field of Wheat" a family's entire crop is destroyed by a sudden hailstorm, and the husband, unable to exhibit his emotions to his family, retreats to the isolation of the barn to cry in anguish.
Although his short stories are widely anthologized, critical reaction to Ross's work has been limited. Because much of his fiction has been associated with nature and the struggle of humans against it, critics have labelled Ross a naturalist. Some commentators, however, have underscored his realistic and deft portrayal of human relationships amidst the isolation and physical hardships of the prairie. In recent years Ross's reputation has undergone a mild resurgence within Canada, though his work has not yet sparked recognition outside of the Canadian context.