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PSU McNair Scholars Online Journal

Article Title

Duality and the Importance of Canadian Humour in A Complicated Kindness

Abstract

In A Complicated Kindness, Miriam Toews takes readers into the secluded fictional Mennonite community of East Village, located on the prairies of Manitoba, Canada. For many readers, a Mennonite community is something that is seen from the outside. What remains in view are mere surface features, a presented face to the world. In the case of Toew’s fictional town of East Village, this mask comes in the form of an antiquated, replica, tourist village that lies outside the town proper. The existence of this front turns the real and secluded East Village into “a town that exists in the world based on the idea of it not existing in the world” (48). “People come … from all over the world for a first-hand look at simple living,” and what they see when they get there is not the real, but the ideal (11). Much of the book is built on layers of affecting metaphors, coupled with irony and humour, which serve to illuminate the dynamics of the real and ideal in this religious fundamentalist community. Toews’ peels back the hidden layers of a symbiotic relationship between this real and ideal so that a reader can empathize instead of judge what may seem to outsiders a hypocritical contradictory existence for the people in this Mennonite town.

Faculty Mentor: Marie Lo