Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

'Les Belles-Soeurs' and 'A Toi, Pour Toujours, Ta Marie-Lou'

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

'Les Belles-Soeurs' and 'A Toi, Pour Toujours, Ta Marie-Lou'

Article excerpt

Michael Cardy, Tremblay. 'Les Belles-soeurs' and 'A toi, pour toujours, ta Marie-Lou', Grant & Cutler Critical Guides, 136 (London: Grant & Cutler, 2004), 84pp. £7.95. ISBN 0-7293-0443-4.

Michael Cardy's joint study of Les Belles-soeurs (1968), the play that made Michel Tremblay's name, and A toi, pour toujours, ta Marie-Lou (1971), his next major success, crucially pinpoints the shifting balance between collective and individual psychologies of Quebec identity, central to his theatrical and fictional work. Les Belles-Soeurs, with its all-female cast of fifteen, examines, in its most constraining form, through a cross-section of women's experience, the network of kinship and community relations that was the collective experience of pre-1960s Quebec. In contrast, A toi, pour toujours, ta Marie-Lou studies the dysfunctionalities of two generations of the nuclear family, a ten-year gap separating the interlocking dialogues of the dead parents and their adult daughters. In both cases themes of frustration and victimhood predominate, but the focus of the 1971 play on the four members of a small family unit already marks an indispensable step on the road towards a new prioritisation of individual responsibility as the key to a more fulfilling life, even though if only one of the characters, Carmen, is able to embrace this new understanding.

The success of the guide lies in Cardy's ability to present a complex range of material in agreeable and readily accessible form, successfully tying perceptive comment on specificities of theme and presentation to sociocultural and linguistic, and also literary and theatrical, contexts. …

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