PATRIFIED MUMMIES AND
MUMMIFIED DADDIES: A STUDY
OF MATRIARCHS AND
PATRIARCHS IN CANADIAN
PRAIRIE FICTION

David C. Carpenter

This chapter is a discussion of the ways in which some of our most distinguished writers have talked about men and women. Among our own settlement fiction, a few books are destined to stay with us long after their creators have passed on. But much of our settlement fiction is doomed to a very short life indeed. One of the reasons that enduring novels are praised by generations upon generations of readers is that the people in them live in the mind's eye and seem to bespeak certain realities that are contained in all of us. The Tom Joneses, the Sam Slicks, the Huck Finns, the Sara Mondays, Becky Sharps, and Uriah Heeps do more than satisfy the intellectual's demand for historical accuracy. They affect us.

Much of our own settlement fiction may be faithful to the region it describes. But if it is to affect us, it will do so in ways which transcend merely regional considerations. Grove's Settlers of the Marsh seems destined to be with us for a long time, for instance. But its success hardly seems to have much to do with Grove's knowledge of rural Manitoba settlement history, or his encyclopedic knowledge of farm machinery, or his agricultural background. Most of us would agree that it has much to do with his creation of people like Niels Lindstedt. In fact, it is likely that the book's enduring qualities reside in the often tragic and occasionally beautiful details of Lindstedt's relationships with Mrs. Lund, Clara, and Ellen. For instance, Grove's creation of Clara, the dark woman, and Ellen, the creature of light, as projections of Niels Lindstedt's love, is at times a fascinating account. The two women provide an illumination into Niels' conflict

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