Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




John Ferns




For W.O. Mitchell, childhood is more than a period of innocent happiness to be remembered nostalgically. In his fiction, he shows that it may actually be the most significant time in anyone's life because the assimilation of childhood experiences, attitudes, values and aspirations are critical to the complete development of the mature adult consciousness. Mitchell strongly believes that "life is a balancing act" as each individual searches for meaning in the world and a strong personal identity, in response to the influence of such powerful forces as nature and civilization, God and human nature, imagination and conformist instruction, social responsibility and self-interest. In approaching the challenges of life and art, Mitchell always insists on the "whole view", so the central concerns expressed in his fiction are moral and affirmative, reflecting an essentially humanistic and existentialist philosophy. In his novels, Mitchell uses the image of the child as an active image, a representation of human potency, and through its innocence, an expression of infinite possibility for mankind.

In this thesis, I examine Mitchell's fiction as part of a particular, historical, literary tradition concerning the use of the figure of the child and the emphasis on childhood experience. I also consider the value of modern psychological studies in appreciating Mitchell's art, and ways in which his vision is distinctively Canadian. The body of this paper deals with Who Has Seen the Wind (1947) and How I Spent My Summer Holidays (1981) as a basis for discussion of Mitchell's treatment of childhood throughout his work.

McMaster University Library

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