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Patrick McEvoy-Halston English 5793


Professor Hill Colin

Critical Introduction: As For Me and tr[y House m Sinclair Ross's, sfor Me and trIy Housei,excites y I -^l "ntdfL^uAi^


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critics who literature. As we readcriticism of the work, againand againwe encounter


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in of one -^ouncetheirdelight knowing atleast Canadian {tyf
be wrote something which canand shouldunapologetically labeled


modernist. This is the broad significanceof the work: apparently,its merits are so that Canada obvious that it "announces,"beamslike a bat signal,to all thoseinterested, did manageto produce a work of fiction betweenthe two wars which is not only not an but embarrassment, which might well be a modernist masterpiece. Without it, it sometimesseems, critics of Canadianliteraturewould have clear reasonto study



during the Victorian era fiction-that is, fiction written by Carndians Victorian Canadian of ftecausenotling more could havebeenexpected themFand, of course,our bounty of postrnodem literature,but would not havemuchjustification for studying contemporary the literaturebetween"the gaps"(which really could and shouldhavebeensomuch into the literaturewritten to more.) By itself, that is, it seems justiff further explorations between wars. (For sucha work to exist, therereally musthavebeensomething the milieu during this time period;mustn't enriching-not just stifling-about the Canadian

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What makesit a modemistwork? To begi4 sinceit hasn't much been nurrutor,Mrs. Bentley,views muchabouther

upon,its aristocraticto#O* commented

with evidentdisdain. Sheshares attitude-a particularlymodern,that is, modernist an

a' afiitude-that the "plebs" about her aren't capable of understandingeither her or her *)t( ry'/ husband. Her disdain evenmakesit difficult to designatethe book as "regional 'Y
literature"; for it can be diffrcult to resist agreeingwith her (indeed,some critics seemto be in love with her, e.g., Robert froet#h) that the particularitiesof those about her, of thosewho populateher immediateHorizon, aren't much worth delineatingor / understandingat all. (We might sensethe cosmopolitan modernist in her attitude toward

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The natural environment fs worthy of her attention, however. And it is a ravaging environment, of the type so common in Canadian literatur{ But her descriptions of the elementstell us more about her than about her surroundings. And it is clear that Ross is the the mostly interestedin her, in how sheexperiences world, how she shapes world to about her to suit her needs. And it is also clear that shedoesdescribeher surroundings

suit her purposes. The elementsare more than brutal-they are, conveniently, primeval: that is, they are fundamentally opposite in nature to the human community she so loathes. The elementsseemat times, her natural allies, but the houseshelives in wars againstn"r( hate her: that is, those She thinks it hatesher, as shehatesit. And it does,in a sense, beenthe type to despiseher should who built it, who previously inhabitedit, would \ave / they have beenprivy to her innermostthoughts. Her descriptionsof the houseare, therefore, in a sophisticatedw&y, quite realistic-however surreal. They register both her of and Ross's superiorawareness the psychologicaleffects of being in any particular / env1ronment.



Numerous critics have noted that Me and My House challengesthe t/ straightforward conception of time as linear. Instead,the bulk of critics arguethat the

plotless-that eachday canbe the sameas any book suggests life is eitheressentially that

in otherparticularday, or cyclical. I'm not sureaboutthis, however.What I sense the of seemingsameness everydaygoingson, in the repetition,is Ross'skeenawareness of psychoanalysis-particularlyof masochism.The endingthat disappoints many critic ", Urrffn ql/tf : 0 . p


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that is, the happy ending which seemsto them so false given the nature of what preceded how the masochist'smind it, is in fact very appropriateif we, like Ross,understand is works. The masochistdoesnot believe that happiness somethinghe/shedeserves.It can be made claim to, but only after much suffering. The novel showsus this sort of processat work. Much suffering, much failing afflicts the Bentleys. This accumulation / however.That is, repetition, the lossesthe Bentley's amountsto a kind of progression, suffer, of their adoptedson, of their dog, for instance,is not stasis. It is instead expansion-an expansionthe Bentley's are well aware of, and which will at somepoint become "large enough" to wa:rant their emerging from the Horizon wastelandwhich / enclosesthem. Eventually, after enough suffering, the masochist feels they have earned for the right to somerespite. The book, that is, delineates us a very true way in which many peopleplot there life.

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Ross is very aware of psychoanalyic theory. The encountersbetweenthe

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in of Bentleysregisterhis own awareness the sadismandmasochism marriedlife. My t'{ 0t


' )fu o*interest is in object-relations psychoanalysis, Rossalso seems havean to and
theoristshave come to intuitive appreciationof the sort of conclusionsobject-relations

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concerning people (he for instancehas Mr. Bentley note that it is important Judith not be ,/ iuJ upsetlest it negativelyimpactsher child's womb environment). Mrs. Bentley registers to throughouther entries,her husband'sresistance "capture." He seemssimultaneously

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4 attractedto and repelled by his wife. Object-relationstheory suggeststhat we relate to our partners as we once related to our mothers. We desireto be close to them, but at the entitieswhen we're close to them. sametime fear loosing our senseof selvesas separate We fear being engulfed,caught. Mrs. Bentley's opinion, which somefeminists might identiff as Ross's sexist assumptionconcerningwomen's ostensibleneeds,thatsheneeds her husbandto be stronger than she is (she has a conversationwith herself throughout her



her account which addresses need to conceive of her husband as a natural leader), to be theory; for able to resist her, is also not a surpriseto those familiar with object-relations

this theory holds (at least accordingto one of its foremosttheorists,Margaret Mahler) that women, more than men, have difficulties separatingthemselvesfrom their same/ sexedmothers, ffid seek out strong men to assistthem in managing this. Latched on to strongmen, that is, they feel less likely to being overwhelmedby feelings of

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powerlessness, feeling as if they are still caught in the maternal matrix. In short, if we of are being offered sexist fair in this novel, it is at the very leastupdated,sophisticated sexist fair----exactlywhat we would expect from a modernist work Work Cited Ross,Sinclair. As For Me and My House. Toronto: McClelland and Stew art, 1989.






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