Sinclair Ross Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

In addition to his novels, Sinclair Ross wrote short stories, ten of which are collected in The Lamp at Noon, and Other Stories (1968). A later collection, The Race, and Other Stories, appeared in 1982. In addition to their intrinsic merit, the short stories are important as proving grounds for many of the plots, themes, and characters of Ross’s novels. A memoir, Just Wind and Horses, was published in 1988.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

The fact that As for Me and My House, Sinclair Ross’s first novel and the one on which his reputation rested for many years, was published in 1941 in the United States and not in his native Canada is indicative of the author’s early struggle for recognition in his home country. Previously, he had published several short stories that gained little attention, perhaps because of their rather somber view of the human condition as reflected in the lives of the characters: Canadian prairie dwellers during the Great Depression. A few copies of As for Me and My House sold in Canada, but the reading public there was not interested in the Canadian West, a region apart from the rest of the world, and the merits of the novel went largely unappreciated until publication of the New Canadian Library paperback edition in 1957. Today, As for Me and My House holds a secure place among the classics of Canadian fiction. Like Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925), it is a parable by which a country can measure its imaginative life. In its complex rendering of humans struggling with inner conflict and the psychological effects of landscape and the elements, and in its richly resonant language, it surpasses the best of Frederick Philip Grove, the leading prairie realist before Ross, and it maps a fictional terrain that continued to be explored by Margaret Laurence, Rudy Wiebe, Robert Kroetsch, and others. Though Ross’s next two novels, The Well and Whir of Gold, fail to match the achievement of As for Me and My House, a renewing fourth novel, Sawbones Memorial, is of high quality.

In his best fiction, a sentence or two of Ross’s lean, spare, honest prose can illuminate the life of an entire community. In his best fiction, too, Ross has the ability to identify with his characters and with their time and place. Margaret Laurence once said that “he got his time and place in the prairies exactly right.” Ross could not have asked for a more satisfying tribute.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Chambers, Robert D. Sinclair Ross and Ernest Buckler. Montreal: Copp Clark and McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1975. A joint study of two of Canada’s finest authors that features close textual analyses of their respective styles.

Fraser, Keith. As for Me and My Body: A Memoir of Sinclair Ross. Toronto: ECW Press, 1997. Fraser’s revelatory reading of As for Me and My House emphasizes the novel’s biographical basis, and in particular its veiled acknowledgment of Ross’s repressed homosexuality. The book also includes a frank portrait of its subject’s later years, when the onset of Parkinson’s disease and a growing sense of failure as a writer made Ross’s life very difficult.

Mitchell, Ken. Sinclair Ross: A Reader’s Guide. Moose Jaw, Sask.: Coteau, 1980. Aimed at the general reader, this insightful overview presents an experienced author’s response to the work of an older peer.

Moss, John, ed. From the Heart of the Heartland: The Fiction of Sinclair Ross. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1992. A gathering of scholarly essays that includes feminist, postmodernist, semiotic, and narratological studies of Ross’s major works. Although some of the contributors tend to wander off into the farther reaches of literary theory, the variety of viewpoints presented makes this a stimulating and thought-provoking collection.

Stouck, David, ed. Sinclair Ross’s “As for Me and My House”: Five Decades of Criticism. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991. A useful anthology that includes journalistic as well as academic responses to Ross’s most accomplished novel.

Woodcock, George. Introducing Sinclair Ross’s “As for Me and My House”: A Reader’s Guide. Toronto: ECW Press, 1990. A somewhat old-fashioned but nonetheless cogent and readable introduction in a series intended for first-and second-year university students.