Monday, January 26, 2009

Reader's Diary #442- Nellie McClung: The Way of The West

While most Canadians remember Nellie McClung as a suffragist and member of the Famous Five, she was also an author of novels, short stories, and non-fiction. A collection of her short stories, The Black Creek Stopping House and Other Stories, first published in 1912, is available in its entirety, and for free, online. This week I look at one of the stories from that collection, "The Way of The West".

"The Way Of The West" is the story of Thomas Shouldice, an Irish-Canadian Orangemen with a chip on his shoulder. It's my understanding that the more labels one carries on their shoulders, the more likely those labels will turn into chips.

Thomas's first issue is with the American immigrants. How dare they celebrate July the 4th on Canadian soil! He stews on this insult to the British Dominion, cursing the Yankees, when he notices Father O'Flynn joining them. Now his rage is extended to the Catholics. That's when he devises his plan. However, his ultimate Twelfth celebration, doesn't quite stick it to the Catholics, nor does it show up those Americans as he hopes...

McClung's story is pleasant enough, and while I'm sure it could have raised a few eyebrows back in the day it was written, is pretty tame today. Thomas never quite rises above the level of caricature, but in such a story, it works. It's pretty clear the author and protagonist do not share the same views, and given McClung's history, it's neat to see her create a character and take so much control over him. It's a story about coming together and getting past petty differences (though the male-female divide is not addressed, as one might predict) and, except for the preachy and unnecessary propaganda in the final two paragraphs, is a fine story.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for introducing her to me..

Chrisbookarama said...

I've wanted to read some of her stuff but was afraid to because I hadn't heard much about her writing. Thanks for doing it first ;)

Teddy Rose said...

I have never read anything by her either. I plan to now. I just printed of 'The Way of the West' to read.

Thanks to the link to her book John. I'll be interested to see the 'propaganda' that you refer to.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this! I've enjoyed Nellie McClung as a writer for years now, although I have to put my mind into her time period to really find her books enthralling.

She's absolutely wonderful... I'm thrilled to see that somebody else in this great, wide world recognizes and appreciates her as a writer!

J.C. Montgomery said...

I'm being introduced to so many great short stories. Pretty soon I will need two sets of shelves: one for my novels and one for anthologies!

John Mutford said...

Gautami: I'd love to hear your thoughts if you decide to read some of her work.

Chris: She's been on my horizon for so long now, I felt it was finally time to make time.

Teddy: It's of the "Canada is so great and accepting" variety.

Kate: I think it's simply that most people don't even realize she was an author. I hope a few more people check her out.

J. C.: Fortunately mine are all internet finds, so it'll take up less shelf space ;)

Lynda said...

Thanks from me also for this introdauction - I shall be looking out for more of her writing.
Here's mine - up late but better late thank never: