The intersecting themes of family and home take centre stage, through the journeys of the volume’s first half and the returns of the volume’s conclusion: “It was good to be home again. No matter where you went or how you enjoyed yourself, it was good to be home again.”
There is a slight shift in tone here, as Renny becomes more contemplative than usual. Perhaps this is inspired by his observations of the younger generation as they begin to find their feet (although he was not particularly thrilled with Wakefield’s most recent explorations, anymore than he was a fan of his last phase, in the previous book, which hasn’t been discussed, it was such a fun surprise).
“Each was needed to complete the design. He was conscious of his own dire deficiencies but felt, without humility, that he was needed too. Somehow he was the receptacle of what had once lived in his forefathers. He was tough-figured and strong. That was something he would guard and pass on to his son.”
But likely, it says more about the author than the characters, as Mazo de la Roche was writing in the early years of WWII and more preoccupied with the idea of moral inheritances and legacies than fiscal ones (for a change).
And, speaking of children, there is another on the way, but the father is having difficulty adjusting to the idea: “It had seemed to him that parenthood was against the nature of each of them.”
Actually, he is having difficulty adjusting to the idea of his partner being a mother:
“He could not picture [her] as a mother. [She] simply couldn’t be a mother. She hadn’t the body for it or the instinct. She was a cold crystal receptacle for passion. Anything more would shatter her.”
As dramatic as this passage is, as much as I giggled over strange and contradictory specificity of it – after all, what could be more easily shattered than a “cold crystal receptacle for passion” but apparently the little matter of motherhood would be the straw on the proverbial camel’s back – this seems to be the quintessential Jalna woman.
Think back to matriarch Adeline’s distance from little Gussie and onwards to every other woman – except two (one of Jalna and one not of Jalna) who has birthed a child in this saga. All the most interesting are disinterested or distracted mothers, all passionate and devoted to other pursuits (usually a man, a Whiteoak man, more specifically).
And, yes, another is introduced in Wakefield’s Course. But you likely guessed that, didn’t you.