Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 612
In the Swamp Angel by Ethel Davis Bryant (also known as Ethel Wilson), Maggie Vardoe leaves her marriage in Vancouver to relive her upbringing in the beautiful natural surroundings of British Columbia. As such, the novel's best quotes relate to Maggie's search for freedom.
Before the novel starts Bryant offers a definition of a Swamp Angel
Note: "Swamp Angel. An 8-inch, 200 pound . . . gun, mounted in a swamp by the Federals, at the siege (1863) of Charleston, S. C. --Webster's Dictionary. Subsequently, there was an issue of small revolvers, inscribed "Swamp Angel."
The story opens with Maggie watching birds fly past her window, foreshadowing her forthcoming escape.
Ten twenty fifty brown birds flew past the window and a few stragglers, out of sight. A fringe of Mrs. Vardoe's mind flew after them (what were they--birds returning in migration of course) and then was drawn back into the close fabric of her preoccupations.
Maggie has grown to dislike her life with her second husband Edward.
I'm always unfair, now to Edward. I hate everything he does. He only has to hang up his hat and I despise him. Being near him is awful. I'm unfair to him in my heart always whatever he is doing, but tonight I shall be gone
She married him because she had suffered three tragedies in quick succession. Soon after her husband was killed in action, her child and father died of illness. Alone in 1940s Canada, she felt she had little choice, but to marry again. Now she states she is impatient to leave.
She had endured humiliations and almost unbearable resentments and she had felt continual impatience at the slowness of time. Time, she knew does irrevocably pass and would not fail her, rather she might in some unsuspected way fail time.
Maggie goes to British Columbia where she finds herself alone and relatively content.
Yes, thought Maggie, it was lonely but it was nice there. The picket fence and the crosses would be covered by snow in the winter. Then the spring sunshine beating on the hillside would melt the snow, and the snow would run off, and the crosses would stand revealed again. And in the spring the Canada geese would pass in their arrows of flight, honking, honking, high over the silent hillside. Later in the season, when the big white moon was full, coyotes would sing among the hills at night, on and on in the moonlight, stopping, and then all beginning again together. Spring flowers would come—a few—in the coarse grass. Then, in the heat of the summer, bright small snakes and beetles would slip through the grasses, and the crickets would dryly sing. Then the sumac would turn scarlet, and the skeins of wild geese would return in their swift pointed arrows of flight to the south, passing high overhead between the great hills. Their musical cry would drop down into the valley lying in silence. Then would come the snow, and the three wooden crosses would be covered again. It was indeed very nice there
At the end of the novel Maggie throws the gun, the Swamp Angel, into a lake, symbolizing the end of the conflict in the story. While the reader understands life won't be perfect for Maggie, they know it will be a lot better.
The Swamp Angel in its eighty years or so has caused death and astonishment and jealousy and affection and one night it frightened Edward Vardoe on Maggie’s behalf, although Maggie does not know that, and soon it will be gone. It will be a memory, and then not even a memory, for there will be no one to remember it.
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