CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 4 . . . . October 15, 2004
Rajka Kupesic, originally from Zagreb, Croatia, uses the Maria Chapdelaine story as the basis for a series of oil paintings which illustrate the book. These are numerous, striking, and done in a naive style which blends well with the text. In one, the church dominates the scene and dwarfs the villagers, as the church dominated Maria's life and causes her to sacrifice her chance to marry Lorenzo and move to the growing metropolis of New York. Instead, she decides to marry Eutrope, a neighboring farmer, and spend her life, like her mother's, on a backwoods farm.
Kupesic uses earth tones, mainly browns and yellows, to portray life in the cabin. We are told that her paintings have been widely shown in galleries around the world and have been featured in magazines. Maria is pictured with eyes either downcast or closed in every picture until she marries. Does this suggest innocence or ignorance? Modesty or lack of awareness? Some of the poses also seem awkward, though this may simply be part of her style.
This story could be used in Canadian history classes to discuss the influence of the church at this time in Quebec or simply to portray the difficult conditions faced by early pioneers. Maria's decision to stay on the farm, care for her father and younger siblings and marry Eutrope rather than move away to New York has also always been controversial and would make for good ethical argument.
Recommended with Reservations.
Helen Norrie, a former teacher-librarian, has taught Children's Literature at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba, and writes a monthly children's book column for the Winnipeg Free Press.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.