But we persisted, we held on . . . "Nous sommes un tmoignage"" (Hemon p197).
Maria stays and marries Eutrope. The relationship with her mother has been closely examined as the real reason for this story. It is possibly both an examination of pre-industrial life for women, and also the point of separation between that history and the changes that have occurred since. Maria loves her mother and respects the work, but has choices her mother never had in terms of personal choice and development. Her mother's life had no change, progress or development internally, and little externally. It can be seen as a parallel to the politics of these ages, and the thinking of the times.
As in Michel Tremblay's play, Les Belle Soeurs, The Beautiful Sisters, the women's lives are stagnant, only finding a way out through contests and prize catalogues. Their answer to anyone inquiring about their winnings is always, "Does it look like I won anything" which points to an air of resignation about their life.
Maria's parents believe that farming is superior to all other ways of life, that there is a peace and security in it. Her mother, in seeing some land cleared, says, "their battle against 'barbarian' nature and the victory of the day" gives them legitimate pride. Even though Maria's mother, Laura, has had to move several times with her husband, and often talks wishfully about living in a 'built-up' area with comforts, the long-suffering pioneer shows her pride this way. Laura has had many men court her in her youth and seems to favor Francois over Maria's other suitors, even inviting him to stay the night one evening, for the company.
Bread-making is a ritual chore in their household. And ritually, Maria takes on most of the baking while her mother rests. Bread-making holds a lot of meaning for those who have examined this story. The outdoor-oven is a great symbol of traditional values for Quebecois and continues to be a tourist attraction in the country.
Bread-making is also a sexual metaphor. It is not thought to invite Freudian theorists in Maria's story, though, but some consider rivalry between mother and daughter as possible. Whether the womb-image inherent in the use of the oven means rivalry for the father's attentions or not is unclear. More likely is the metaphor of communion, as bread is used in Christian thinking. The union between mother and daughter, as well as the mutual respect, seems to be the real effect of this segment of the story.
What is a rival to Maria is the woodland that killed her boyfriend (p128). And this is where she begins questioning her mother's deepest beliefs and values. The woodland as a maternal image is a very Canadian sensibility. Maria sees her mother's life as dull and difficult, maybe threatening in its tedium.
Despite this Maria continues to appreciate her mother's strength and have a good rapport with her. Her parents know her secret conflicts but stay silent (p119), "Ayant devin son secret, comme ils ont su se taire!" When Laura dies, Maria's father tells her a tale about her mother chasing a bear off with only a stick (p186). This story, then, becomes a metaphor for the struggles of Quebec to retain its French identity and culture.
Michel Tremblay's 1960's play, with its unhappy confessional of a kitchen as the