Is the Canadian novel coming to terms with bilingualism?
Leperlier, Henri D.
One question which this study will attempt to investigate is whether bilingual characters in Canadian fiction are consciously viewed as essential to the survival of their country as a whole. Another fundamental aim is to discover why some authors, such as Lionel Groulx in l'Appel de la race for example, introduce bilingual characters seemingly with the purpose of distorting their reality. It is important to know why a whole group of writers use bilingual characters to serve as vehicles for their personal ideas. This study will also try to outline how the description of bilingual characters has evolved in the last hundred years. To what extent, for instance, do Canadian novels reflect changing attitudes in Canadian society? Have Canadian realistic novelists in fact examined the question of bilingualism in their contemporary society or have they tended to avoid the issue? To the average person who is unilingual there remains one question: Are perfectly bilingual people different? We will see in fact that many writers tend to consider bilingual characters as if they belong to an altogether differant kind of species; a species which is either estranged from any real society or superior. A question often asked in Canada is whether Canadian literature is distinctive in any way. One would be tempted to say that the question should have been settled long ago, for even the absence of a strong feeling of identity can be the characteristic of a nation which has been relatively peaceful for nearly two centuries. Is it possible that bilingual characters are a distinctive trait of Canadian literature? Are such characters more prevalent and highly developed in Canadian novels than in other literatures? Are bilingual people a group apart from the rest of the people in a society? As this study will reveal, all these questions have been dealt with by Canadian writers. Of course, not all Canadian writers treat the question of bilingualism either as a minor or as a main theme of their novels. Some writers ignore it completely, despite the fact that at this time national unity is the main problem of Canada. The final problem which will be considered in this study is the relationship between Canadian history on the one hand and the presentation of bilingual characters on the other.