Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




A. Bishop


In recent years, many authors have written fictional recreations or retellings of the First World War. It is a subject that has generated a great deal of interest and inspired texts by a variety of British and Canadian authors, such as Pat Barker, Sebastian Faulks, Timothy Findley, R.H. Thomson and Jane Urquhart. In this thesis, I consider some of the narrative techniques employed in three Canadian retellings, particularly ways in which authors who do not have the "benefit' of lived experience establish their authority. The main focus of this thesis is a figure I am referring to as the Observer -- a character who is distanced (like the authors) by time and, in some cases, gender, but who embarks on a quest to know or recreate the lived war experience. Observer figures in The Wars (1977), The Lost Boys (2001) and The Stone Carvers (2001) illustrate how a journey into the past raises questions about how we know and remember the war, particularly in terms of the way combatant writing and official memorializing of the war have influenced later generations' perceptions of it Because each of these works incorporates, in some form or another, the research process, these authors draw attention to the difficulty of not only knowing or defining the past, but also of constructing it as a narrative. The Observers' journeys end, not with a satisfying of their desire to know, but rather with a denial of that possibility. They move beyond this, however, and instead learn the importance of honouring the past and integrating its lessons into the present. Their journeys are ultimately journeys of self-discovery, and all the Observers gain, by the end of their quests, a greater appreciation of life itself.

McMaster University Library

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