W. O. Mitchell Margaret Laurence - Essay

Margaret Laurence

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

W. O. Mitchell's stories about Jake and the kid began appearing in Maclean's during the war. A great many Canadians must have found them then, as I did, extremely appealing. In the first place, the kid's father was overseas with the South Saskatchewans, and the kid, his mother and Jake, the elderly and loquacious hired man, were keeping the home fires burning. In the second place, these stories were among the first that many of us who lived on the prairies had ever read concerning our own people, our own place and our own time…. A prevalent feeling on the subject was, as I recall—that's us; he's writing about us.

Quite a few years have gone by. The image of the prairie people presented by Mitchell now [in the collected stories, Jake and the Kid,] seems like some blurred recollection of childhood, partially appealing because of its over-simplification, partially repellent for the same reason. I can no longer be convinced that even the genuinely ludicrous aspect of people anywhere was ever as unreservedly warm hearted as the author of Jake and the Kid would have us believe. Here is comedy with no bite of acid to cut the sweet taste. No good person ever comes to harm in Crocus, and the overwhelming majority of citizens are unquestionably good. The few villains such as Sam Bottom and Doc Toovey are truly villainous and are always defeated. (pp. 68-9)

The emotions expressed in these stories,...

(The entire section is 455 words.)