This paper will compare and contrast the authorial approach to coming-of-age narratives, and the formation of identities in two works of Canadian fiction, Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women and Nino Ricci's Lives of the Saints. Munro employs a first-person narrative that interweaves the voice of the child Del with the adult Del, as Del investigates the meaning of her own life in the context of experiences which are formative to her personal journey to become an artist. The style is one of an intermingling narrative of surface reality contrasted with private, creative and interior visions of imagined selves, as they intersect with landscape, literature and community. In contrast, Ricci's book is written from the first person point of view of Vittorio, a boy growing up in rural Italy in the late 50s and early 60s. Also told in the first person, the novel is largely concerned with Vittorio's mother's relationship to her village, and the growing sense of alienation she feels as her values digress from those of the closed community she has grown up in. Both books contrast gender stereotypes to actual lived experiences, such as Vitorrio's sensitivity and interiority and Del's ferocious independence. This paper will look at the rise of feminist and immigrant literatures as new forms of writing in Canadian literature.
[...] Ricci writes of the formative experiences of a young male writer breaking away from his birthplace and its ancient traditional culture and expectations; Munro writes of a young girl growing up in a small Canadian town, also finding ways to break out from and defy traditions and conventions which have and continue to hold women back from full autonomy and independence. These are both self-directed narratives which emerge from the landscape of self-consciousness, with interiority and imagination having as much to do with the development of personality as do the surface events of daily and community life. [...]
[...] In using this format, Munro is able to move back and forth in time, now providing us with the perspective of consciousness of the little girl Del, and then with the older Del looking back on, and giving sense and shape to her experiences, and what was significant about them to her adult self's development. Like Ricci's novel, although from a decidedly feminine perspective, the book proceeds from the outside-inwards, revealing that in recent Canadian literature surface landscape is replaced by the impact of culture on individual consciousness, with both works exploring the life of ‘outsiders' and how this impacts upon their life choices and life chances, using a voice built on interiority. [...]
[...] The first person perspective of Vittorio enables Ricci to present his development in a way that reveals his naivety and his growing understanding of the meaning of his mother's life. An adult perspective seems to draw the narrative strands together, creating a reflective understanding of such issues as gender difference and the immigrant experience. Ricci, who grew up in a working class Italian immigrant setting, his parents agricultural laborers who arrived in Leamington Ontario in the 1950s, uses personal autobiographical details as a template for the fictional Vittorio's birthplace. [...]
[...] As a adolescent, Del, in the key story in the collection, “Baptizing” begins a process of separation from her mother, who she identifies as a rather repressed sexless feminist intellectual, and a separation from Naomi, her childhood friend, who has become the conventional image of magazine-media femininity. Del realizes she does not want this for herself—she does not want her lover Garnett to baptize her in the river, and turn her into a wife, she wants him as a lover, which enables her to explore her own sensuality without being hemmed in by male expectations or traditional gender roles. [...]
[...] Amanda Mullen in an article on the in-between space that immigrant writing in Canada often inhabits, remarks on how Ricci's work fits into a body of new Canadian literature that deals with the gaps between the immigrant's dreams of success in the idealized new homeland versus the real experience of immigration. Discussing nationalism as a construct, Mullen notes that “National narratives provide the members of any given nation-state with a shared sense of collectivity, identity and belonging.” (Mullen: 31) This metaphor of nation can be extended to any kind of community, from a family to a village to a nation where there is not, in reality, universal acceptance, even if it is promised, but instead, codes that must be followed, which if not adhered to, end up creating the category of the excluded. [...]
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