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Volume 39, Number 2 (2018)

“The snow is a moving shroud”: Still Stands the House and Murder on the Canadian Stage

January 23, 2019


In exploring Still Stands the House by Gwen Pharis Ringwood, Scott considers how a particularly gendered experience of the Canadian landscape finds expression in a murderous act by a woman. The act of murder can be a powerful theatrical device for reflecting, on stage, a Canadian reaction to the experience of being embedded in a hostile environment. The play provides a fascinating case study for the convergence of gender roles, violence, geography, and climate, and springs from the perspectives and concerns of Alberta settler-colonial farm families in the early twentieth century. The theories of Northrop Frye and Margaret Atwood have been challenged by subsequent critics and by the changing realities of Canadian society and literature, and many of their assumptions thoroughly problematized by colonial and Indigenous studies. But, keeping these crucial criticisms in mind, Scott argues that some of Frye’s and Atwood’s key concepts can still prove applicable to the imaginative world of Ringwood’s play, and are therefore useful for understanding its impact and continuing status in the Canadian dramatic canon. By realistically evoking the hardship of the time and the isolation of the settler farmer lifestyle, Ringwood makes the harsh environment an active character in the drama and, by linking the violence of the environment with the violent act of her character, Hester, Ringwood suggests something intrinsically brutal behind the rhetoric of the pioneer spirit and the settler experience in Canada.