Mavis Gallant’s introduction to Home Truths quotes Boris Pasternak: “Only personal independence matters” (xi). The importance of personal independence is a driving theme in Morley Callaghan’s “One Spring Night” and “A Wedding Dress,” which respectively explores opposite ends of romantic relationships: young Sheila is on her first date with Bob, while the aging Miss Schwartz is finally getting married to Sam after fifteen years of engagement. By its very definition, a relationship is the antithesis of independence—a problem that becomes increasingly evident for Sheila and Schwartz.
Mavis Gallant’s “The Ice-Wagon Going Down the Street” is a story about Peter’s repeated memory as he tries to validate his passive lifestyle. But this is threatened by Agnes, who serves as a reflection of Peter. Repetition is used to define Peter as unchanging and passive, but reflection is used to define activity and hint at change. The image of the ice wagon allows Gallant to reconcile repetition and reflection, to create an emergent space which captures the difference between Peter and Agnes: Agnes ultimately accepts the ice wagon, embracing independence at the risk of alienation; Peter rejects the ice wagon, choosing to remain in his cycle. It is this that gives the story its final poignancy: Peter is changed, but unchanged.
“The Prairie” is the first chapter of Part II of Frederick Philip Grove’s Fruits of the Earth. It is a crucial turning point for Abe, whose philosophy changes as he questions the significance of his material aspirations against the infinite landscape. “The Prairie” is the quintessential chapter of pioneer literature, where the pioneer, Abe, through exploring the alienation of man in the omnipresent frontier, finally understands his place and purpose in the prairie.