Taming the Wild: On Womanhood, Nation, and Nature in Ann-Marie Macdonald's Fall on Your Knees and The Way the Crow Flies

Yvonne Michelle Hammond, The University of Montana


This project evaluates the work of Canadian author and playwright Ann-Marie Macdonald in the context of links between ecocritical, feminist and post-colonial perspectives; it seeks to understand how broader definitions for gender provide an alternative to the patriarchal binaries that limit both individual and national identities. Part of the Canadian conscious is an anxiety that questions not only the way difference impacts their culture, but also how these differences speak to a lack of a homogenized national identity. This study focuses on Macdonald’s novels Fall on Your Knees (1996) and The Way the Crow Flies (2003) , in order to examine histories that have traditionally been excluded, stories outside of colonial, and later, national rhetoric. Macdonald exhumes these stories, elevating women’s voices, in particular, to reveal the danger of limiting visions of personal identity. These identities, particularly national identities, implicitly reflect deeply imbedded, and often disregarded, relationships with our natural environment. Thus, national and individual identities are inseparable from ecological concerns. Fall on Your Knees uses the image and context of gardens as a means of discovery, particularly in imaging the history of colonial settlement. The Way the Crow Flies continues this work to explore the impact of modernity and the continued policies of categorization and, subsequently, subjugation. Modern visions for land development and industrialization inform perspectives about place and selfhood as landscapes experienced a form of colonization that revised definitions for natural and unnatural spaces. These definitions are similar to those for male and female, which have traditionally place the latter in a subjugate position. The inscription of femininity parallels that of the land, its traumas providing an important collusion between land and people. It is this paper’s contention that Macdonald uses her stories to destabilize male/female binaries and, ultimately, suggest an alternative to restrictive identities.


© Copyright 2010 Yvonne Michelle Hammond