When Robert Stead’s novel The Homesteaders first appeared in serial form in 1916, it was introduced as ‘the kind of fiction Canadian authors ought to write,’ and the Canadian public agreed. By 1922, when Stead’s popularity was at its height, the novel was in its fifth printing. Despite the war, reviews praising the book’s vividly realized background appeared throughout the British Empire.
In The Homesteaders, Stead stresses the importance of pioneer life, its heroic and ideal qualities, as part of a unifying national tradition. Through two conventional love stories he explores two important themes: the early settlement of Plainville (a fictional community in Manitoba) with its difficulties and the sense of community these called forth; and the ironic impact upon the pioneers of the dreamed-of prosperity and civilization. In the story of John Harris and his family Stead evokes the world of 1882, when hopeful settlers travelled to Manitoba and then struggled with the land. He portrays prosperous Manitoba in 1907 and the reactions of the new generation, represented by Beulah, Harris’ daughter. While Harris’ idealism has been corrupted into materialism and pioneer co-operation has given way to concern with personal profit, yet a new generation of pioneers in moving westward with their parents’ old dream of a home and a world to be built. Finally, Stead evokes the social and cultural milieu of the time his book appeared.
The Homesteaders is valuable as pioneering literary work, part of the slow evolution of Canadian literature from escapist romance to conscious examination of national life.
- Series: Heritage
- World Rights
- Page Count: 380 pages
- Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.0in x 9.0in
Author InformationROBERT J.C. STEAD (1880-1959) was a Manitoba journalist and sometime poet. He began his career as novelist during World War I, but it was with Neighbours (1922), The Smoking Flax (1924), and especially Grain (1926) that he established his claim to be the pioneer realist of Canadian rural life.
SUSAN WOOD GLICKSOHN is writing a thesis on ‘Man, the Land and Society in English and French Canadian Fiction’ for the English Department of the University of Toronto.
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