Published in the year of 1941, the novel often referred to as a ‘classic novel’, As for me and My House, is written by the eminent Canadian writer Sinclair Ross . Often regarded as the mainstream of the English Canadian writing, the novel revolves around the life of Mrs. Bentley whose narration spanning over a year suggests how the false- fronted lives she encounters in her life resembles the false-fronted stores of Horizon, a small Saskatchewan town, she has been trying to make a living with her husband, an artist turned minister Philip Bentley. While most of the critics tend to discuss the novel in the light of the character of Mr. Bentley, a failed minister as well as a potential artist, it is the daily challenge that Mrs. Bentley encounters on a regular basis that leaves a poignant note behind.
As the critic John H. Ferres has pointed out the major challenge encountered by Mrs. Bentley has been the lack of communication with her husband. Mrs. Bentley literally strives to crave her identity, feels the need to be heard, amidst the “desolate wilderness” of the prairie and yet all in vain. Her co-dependent relation with her husband, who shuts her out continually, despite her efforts to attract his attention and yet her failure to express herself early without protesting through her journal, is the major challenge Mrs. Bentley encounters in the novel. Mrs. Bentley fails to communicate her depressed and despondent state of mind, as she relies on behaving the ‘woman’s way’, overlooking advices from neighbours like Mrs. Bird. Mrs. Bentley remains a docile woman, who fails to protest against her husband’s lack of devotion towards her, except in a passive-aggressive way whereby she records events in her journal. However, that is in itself representative of the moral weakness of a woman who fails to stand up and express her feelings, grudges and desires before her husband, and thus chooses the ‘silent way’.
In order to respond to the challenge of her life, Mrs. Bentley writes her diary or turns her attention to play the piano as part of her lifetime pursuit. It is to be noted that unlike the protagonist Ellen of The Lamp at Noon, Mrs Bentley does not stand still and motionless near the window once her husband is out, and rather she tries to create her own space in her life and search for a purpose to live further . However, it is equally important to note that despite the latent feminist subconscious mind she possesses, Mrs Bentley suffers from a sense of oppression that tends to stifle her independent personality each day. She finds herself stuck in a harsh, patriarchal society where she tends to find the meaning of her husband through the approval of a male-dominated society. She accepts the social division of labour, and deems it right to stop doing the ‘male work’, blames herself for not being able to bear the child for which her husband had to adopt a child amidst poverty. She responds to the challenge of her life, by marginalizing her position, and surrendering her own dignity and self-esteem, while letting Philip be “the man about the house”.
Mrs Bentley is well-aware of the tensed relation existent between herself and her husband, and yet her sense of possessiveness, prevents her from communicating the issue to her husband. She could express herself more fiercely and aggressively had she been able to convey her thoughts directly to Mr. Bentley, rather than writing them down in the diary. She always has responded to the challenge of her life in a passive way, whereby she invites Paul or other people repeatedly only because she feels that the arrival of a new person in the house can defuse or obscure the marital tension. In this way, her inability to communicate remains a major barrier to her prospect of leading a free life, and the way she manages or rather tries to respond to these challenges, shows merely the aggressive side of her life. While Philip is being continually compared with a horse, with a free, independent and untamed spirit, the reader finds Mrs. Bentley trying, “to subdue a man, to bind him to her” . She tries to be a ‘good wife’, while losing her voice, her independence and freedom, and this in turn transforms her life into a void, involving an infertile, barren situation.
To conclude, it is to be noted that Mrs. Bentley encounters the problem of a disturbed marital life, not merely because her husband is unresponsive, but also because in her effort to act in the ‘woman’s way’, she fails to communicate her desires and needs, both sexual and emotional, to her husband. She can only think of inciting jealousy in her husband or look out vigilantly for her competitors, instead of re-constructing herself, and this is the only challenge she confronts that prevents her from seeking a better life.
Mandell, Nancy, and Jennifer L. Johnson. "RACE, CLASS, AND SExUALITY." (2016).
Sorensen, Sue. "“He thinks he’s failed” Representations of Christian Clergy in English Canadian Fiction." Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 43.4 (2014): 553-574.
Thieme, John. "Writing Region: Robert Kroetsch and the Poetics of Prairie Space." Margins 3.1 (2014).
Van Herk, Aritha. "A gentle circumcision." Kunapipi 7.2 (2017): 10.
Van Herk, Aritha. "Women writers and the prairie: Spies in an indifferent landscape." Kunapipi 6.2 (2016): 4.
 Van Herk, Aritha. "A gentle circumcision." Kunapipi 7.2 (2017): 10.
 Thieme, John. "Writing Region: Robert Kroetsch and the Poetics of Prairie Space." Margins 3.1 (2014).
 Van Herk, Aritha. "Women writers and the prairie: Spies in an indifferent landscape." Kunapipi 6.2 (2016): 4.
 Mandell, Nancy, and Jennifer L. Johnson. "RACE, CLASS, AND SExUALITY." (2016).
 Sorensen, Sue. "“He thinks he’s failed” Representations of Christian Clergy in English Canadian Fiction." Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 43.4 (2014): 553-574.