Key Themes

  1. Escape: Consider why Maggie feels she needs to escape? What (not just who) is she afraid of?
  2. Place: Why is the car ride out of Vancouver so important? How is it described? Why is it important where she mails her letter from?
  3. Landscape: Consider how Maggie spends her time going into the interior of British Columbia. How do the descriptions of her actions, moods, and thoughts become connected to the landscape she is in? How do these reflect on where she comes from?
  4. Kitchens/Domestic space: Compare Maggie’s two kitchens (in Vancouver and in the lodge). How do they differ? How are they the same? What is significant about this translocation?
  5. Names: What is the importance of Maggie changing her name from Vardoe back to her earlier married name, Lloyd, rather than keeping her most recent husband’s name or returning to her maiden name? What does this naming signal regarding her sense of identity through time? Why is it important to become Tom Lloyd’s own widow again (38)? Is she perhaps trying to reclaim a past experience or identity, or trying to assert a way of being that has been lost? What does this change suggest about her future ideals? How does this re-naming challenge the power of the masculine last name?
  6. Pistol: Consider how Mrs. Severance’s dynamic history of play and precision is expressed in the static, domestic sphere of her home. How does her pistol stand as a reminder of her past identity? How is it a symbol of her ideals for Maggie?
  7. Gender: How are the male characters represented in the narrative? How do they control the actions of the female characters (both actively as well as passively) through their cultural and social power? How do Maggie and others use this power to access and sometimes circumvent patriarchy?
  8. Gender expectations: Examine the wooing of Maggie in the latter half of the novel by Mr. Cunningham. What does Maggie do to attract her suitor? Do these actions reflect societal roles she is expected to play? In what ways does her response reflect her autonomy and identity?
  9. Power: Consider the tension between Vera and Maggie. How do they view each other? How are they powerful in different ways in each other’s eyes (such as employment, attractiveness, etc)?
  10. Female friendship: What roles do Mrs. Severance and her daughter play in Maggie’s life? Can you see them as foils or as gatekeepers of knowledge? What forms the basis for the intimacy between Mrs. Severance and Maggie? How is their relationship different than that between Maggie and Hilda? Is Maggie wicked like Mrs. Severance?
  11. Public/private space: Consider how Maggie uses the roles and knowledge of the purportedly male spheres of natural and public spaces to undercut the expectations of others, such as through her fly-tying (conventionally a man’s skill), her escape from her husband via taxi and bus, or her running of the fishing camp (albeit from the kitchen). Discuss moments of both self-assuredness and unease. How do her movements outside of her socially prescribed space of influence (in the home subservient to her husband) make her feel? Why might these be important to a feminist reading of this text?

Works Cited

  • Wilson, Ethel. Swamp Angel. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1990. Print.