- We are myth destroyers.
- We are paradoxical – we search for our own identity.
- We celebrate victims.
- We celebrate individual suffering – defeated by rebellion.
- Truly authentic Canadian experience is shrouded in violence and paranoia.
- External world defines who we are.
- Fear of America, Europe, “Old World.”
- Interior Separation
- Garrison Mentality
- Exploration and Discovery: Quest
- Canada is the great asylum for victims the world over.
- Long periods of death followed by the rush to (re)produce.
- Authors explore three key relationships to determine who we are:
- our relationship with the environment
- our relationship with each other
- our relationship with the Divine.
- Societal barriers, systems of all kinds are pulled back to uncover briefly who we are.
- Immigrants could not control the land or nature – so they controlled the indians.
Find a few more from Conclusion to ‘A Literary History of Canada’:
A feature of Canadian life that has been noted by writers from Susanna Moodie onward is the paradox of vast empty spaces and lack of privacy, with no defences against the prying or avaricious eye. – Northrop Frye
Other nuggets from Frye:
- Myth of the hero brought up in the forest retreat, awaiting the moment when his giant strength will-be fully grown and he can emerge into the world.
- We feel constantly that all the energy has been absorbed in meeting a standard, a self-defeating enterprise because real standards can only be established, not met.
- The sense of probing into the distance, of fixing the eyes on the skyline, is something that Canadian sensibility has inherited from the voyageurs.
- Canadian novels associate nobility of character with a faraway look, or base their perorations on a long-range perspective.
- The feeling of nomadic movement over great distances persists even into the age of the aeroplane, in a country where writers can hardly meet one other without a social organization that provides travel grants.
- There is something Hebraic about the Canadian tendency to read its conquest of a promised land, its Maccabean victories of 1812, its struggle for the central fortress on the hill at Quebec, as oracles of a future.
- Civilization in Canada, as elsewhere, has advanced geometrically across the country, throwing down the long parallel lines of the railways, dividing up the farm lands into chessboards of square-mile sections and concession-line roads. There is little adaptation to nature: in both architecture and arrangement, Canadian cities and villages express rather an arrogant abstraction, the conquest of nature by an intelligence that does not love it.
- Small and isolated communities surrounded with a physical or psychological “frontier,” separated from one another and from their American and British cultural sources: communities that provide all that their members have in the way of distinctively human values, and that are compelled to feel a great respect for the law and order that holds them together, yet confronted with a huge, unthinking, menacing, and formidable physical setting — such communities are bound to develop what we may provisionally call a garrison mentality.
- The real terror comes when the individual feels himself becoming an individual, pulling away from the group, losing the sense of driving power that the group gives him, aware of a conflict within himself far subtler than the struggle of morality against evil.