Carol Shields’ novels focus on the lives of women, and the struggles they face throughout their everyday lives, which ultimately shape them into the women they are. Each of Shield’s female characters experiences the struggles of living according to the restrictions of the female gender role. A modern woman’s role is one that requires her to balance her domestic and career goals. Reta, the protagonist in Unless, is a middle-aged mother of three daughters, a wife, and a successful writer. Reta is unsettled to hear that her daughter Norah is living on the streets as a beggar. As a result, Reta feels as though she has not played the proper role as a mother, and her life begins to crumble internally and externally. In the midst of this turmoil she instinctively knows that she must wait for her daughter to return on her own. The struggles portrayed in Shields’ novels show the conflict which occurs in the lives of women, and hardships they endure in order to balance all aspects of the female gender role.
Just as the characters in Shields’ novels struggle for independence, the provinces of Canada struggled to unite as one nation. Before 1867, Canada had been separated into several provinces, each of which embraced conflicting ideals and visions for a new Canada. Through struggle and compromise, delegates to a provincial assembly proposed a new quasi-independent structure for Canada known as the Dominion. Made official by the British North America Act in 1867, the Dominion of Canada enjoyed a special relationship with the British monarchy. The Act created the Dominion of Canada and established a new government which was under the rule of the British monarchy. The monarch of Great Britain served as head of the Canadian government as well. Due to the confederation in 1867, Canada was able to share an integrated relationship with Britain. In 1884, the British Commonwealth was established, and included former colonies who wished to maintain an association with Britain. As a member of the Commonwealth, Canada shared traditions and pledged allegiance to the British monarch.
Major Works Consulted:
Longford, Elizabeth. The Queen: The Life of Elizabeth II. New York: Knopf, 1983.
Shields, Carol. Small Ceremonies. New York: Penguin, 1976.
Nelson, Sheila. Conflict, Changes, and Confederation. Broomall: Mason Crest,
Shields, Carol. The Stone Diaries. New York: Penguin, 1993.
---. Unless. New York: Harper Collins, 2002.