Before tackling these questions, read through these articles from Canadian Literature:

  1. Consider R.D. MacDonald’s discussion of Maggie’s tension between social obligations and a sense of autonomy felt in swimming and suggested by other moments of temptation to unchecked freedom (44-45). Extend this analysis in feminist terms to discuss how Wilson navigates this duality. In other words, how does Maggie seek to balance a desire for connections and responsibility and a desire for freedom and autonomy?
  2. Contrast the arguments of MacDonald and Urbas regarding social obligations, marriage, love, and jealousy. Discuss how Urbas adds important content to MacDonald’s synopsis through the notion of contact and awareness (15).
  3. Consider Wilson’s treatment of racial and cultural differences in the novel. How might Maggie’s sexual marginality correlate to the experiences of other marginalized people in the novel? Can we consider types of marginalization as analogous, and what problems does such an approach also raise?
  4. Allison Mitcham writes that the pattern of northward flight in pursuit of a Utopian dream is clearly a dominant pattern in contemporary Canadian fiction. The farther into the northern wilderness the characters go the more hope there seems to be of their dreams being fulfilled(38). She notes that Swamp Angel is an example of such a pattern. Consider in what ways the novel fulfills but also disrupts this pattern. For instance, does Maggie remain hopeful and do her dreams become fulfilled? Likewise, in what ways are her experiences imagined in terms ofNorthern-ness? How might the contrast between Maggie’s time at the lodge and the experiences of herself, as well as her friends and ex-husband in Vancouver, support or contest characterizing the novel as a northern utopian narrative?

Works Cited

  • MacDonald, R.D. Serious Whimsy. Canadian Literature 63 (1975): 40–51. Print. (PDF)
  • Mitcham, Allison. Northern Utopia. Canadian Literature 63 (1975): 35–39. Print. (PDF)
  • Urbas, Jeannette. The Prequisites of Love. Canadian Literature 59 (1974): 6–15. Print. (PDF)
  • Wilson, Ethel. Swamp Angel. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1990. Print.