Harmony and discord : a study of the transition from old to modern ways of life as handled by a group of prairie novelists

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Cowperthwaite, Avon Elizabeth,
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This thesis examines the transition from old to modern ways of life as handled by a group of Canadian Prairie novelists. The theme emerges to a great extent from the immigrant's longing for the beautiful Old World traditions which he has lost and from the sense of chaos he experiences in the New World. The difficulty and the struggle of the immigrant and farmer in coming to terms with Prairie Nature is considered. The strong belief that Nature is a malevolent force is also noted. Man in the Prairie world must also learn to adjust to the mechanized age in which he lives. In a later chapter of this thesis the change in the nature of the family is considered. The ideal mother figure disappears and a more complex, "real" woman replaces her. The novelist shows the disillusionment of modern marriage and the conflict between parent and child. Also discussed is the ability of the Prairie novelist to give excellent portrayals of the child and the aged. The absence of the well drawn mature individual is also noted. Another chapter considers the unfavourable aspects of the modern educational system and shows that a dedicated teacher might be able to offset such disadvantages. The novelist also considers the retarding effect of racial prejudice on the development of a Canadian nationalism which is based on a sympathetic understanding of humanity, rather than on self-conscious, flag-waving patriotism. Thus this study seeks to show the common interest of Prairie novelists in the note of longing, the concept of heroism and the process of maturity. It attempts to show that particular emphasis has been placed on the split between the past and the present and the need to restore continuity between them. Finally, this study contends that the handling of the theme of transition is one of the major contributions of the Prairie novelist to the modern novel.