Luttes et espaces habités du quotidien dans quatre récits de fiction par Gabrielle Roy, Helen Potrebenko, Isabel Vaillancourt et Heater O'Neill
Autre titre : Fictional struggle and everyday living spaces in works by Gabrielle Roy, Helen Potrebenko, Isabel Vaillancourt and Heater O'Neill
Date de publication2012
In Bonheur d'occasion (1945), Hey Waitress and Other Stories (1989), Les enfants Beaudet (2001) and Lullabies for Little Criminals (2006), the characters struggle with exclusion, confinement and lack of social recognition in precarious environments. Moving in and out of home, they resist power structures that define and delineate their living spaces and they use strategies of transgression that allow them to make sense of their existence in relation to other people who share similar struggles. One aspect of the transgressive function of the texts is to represent alternative spaces in the lives of women and children that result from their experiences of struggle. The texts dramatize a desire for alternatives to dealing with spatial distress, economic crisis and sex-gendered boundaries. This desire is represented by the female and child characters' survival strategies, which show their capacity to surmount the socio-spatial difficulties. As Barbara Godard remarked, one of the aims of recent feminist research"coincides with the efforts of women writers to open new dimensions of space, to allow women freedom of movement, without hesitancy, or fear, or obstacle, through geographic and political spaces, but, more fundamentally, through cultural, conceptual and imaginary spaces" (Godard 2). Looking closely at how authors Gabrielle Roy, Helen Potrebenko, Isabel Vaillancourt and Heather O'Neill dramatize female and child characters' movement through and experience of daily living spaces, I suggest that, indeed, the texts open and question the geographical, material, sex-gendered, and imaginary spaces in which fictionalized subjects struggle to exist. By exploring the characters' experience of spatial, economic and psychosocial distress, I argue that the fictionalized subjects are able to build localized spaces of comfort both in the public and in the private sphere and thus to find a certain"freedom of movement" (Godard 2). Their survival strategies used for coping with social, spatial, economic, and physical boundaries show that they are agents of change and capable of finding and preserving minimum comfort in living spaces. For instance, the characters show ambivalence towards their sense of home, and, accordingly, they seek to rebuild and/or negotiate this living space through alternative sites such as embodied, fantasized or shared spatiality. I will read the texts according to the experiences of struggle of the characters, the represented survival strategies, and textual elements such as narrative point of view and discourses on space, gender and poverty. Bonheur d'occasion concentrates on the ways of using and creating space to get out of poverty and represents women's active, but subjugated, roles. The collection of short stories Hey Waitress and Other Stories gathers fictional voices of working-class, elderly, and poor subjects who experience sex-gendered, spatial, and economic struggle. These struggles create a space for alternatives and for resistance in living spaces that are open to change. Les enfants Beaudet fictionalizes the lives of children who, as a closed group, try to appropriate private and public spaces and use violence and revenge to cope with feelings of abandonment and injustice. Finally, Lullabies for Little Criminals , a first-person narrative, dramatizes the daily struggles of a pre-teenager who goes from one place to another, searching for recognition and a sense of home in Montreal. Each text represents particular living spaces and lived spatiality that situate and inscribe the agency of the female and child protagonists. Despite spatial crises, these stories dramatize how oppressed subjects are able to take action. Drawing on theories of space (Henri Lefebvre, Elizabeth Grosz, Kristinne Miranne and Alma H. Young), home (Catherine Wiley, Thomas Foster, Janet Zandy) and the fictional representation of poverty (Roxanne Rimstead), this thesis analyses home, the workplace, the body, and the shared space of solidarity as fragile, limited and conflicting sites. The four books dramatize the socio-spatial distress of characters that arise when precarious living conditions limit their opportunities for survival and subjecthood. I suggest, more particularly, that the negotiation of space is an important part of the process of identity formation through which the characters find a sense of home between the material and the psychological, the public and the private, and individuality and solidarity.