Fear, it has a way of controlling everything that it comes in contact

with. As young children we are introduced to this intimidating desire

with intrigue and suspicion. As we age, the thoughts of fears become

more like realities, ideas of loneliness and death enter the picture as

comprehensible thoughts and views of the future. These issues make

up the foundation of the Mavis Gallant story "Bernadette". In this story

we are presented with the image of a young French Canadian girl, who

finds herself pregnant and without a husband. The context of the story

explores the relationships between the members of the household in a

fear associated manner. The relationship between the Knights and

Bernadette is the base of the story. These three people relate to each

other in an intimidating fashion and this is what makes Bernadette’s

predicament so difficult to overcome. As well, the family ties between

Nora and Robbie are explored. Their family relationship is one based on

dependence, and without this one factor the connection between the two

results in fearfulness of being alone. Fear has a way of attacking our

judgment and this is what makes associations between people an

apprehensive and hard act.

The story is set in Quebec during the 1940-1950, when what you

were was the definition of who you were. As the story opens we are

presented with the main character Bernadette, who is concluding that

she is one hundred and twenty-six days pregnant. At this time in history

it was quit common for young rural girls to bare children at a young

age. However, Bernadette is a single French Canadian girl who is

working and living in a urban community, where things like that do not

take place. We are here introduced to the first fear presented in the

story: --How will Bernadette tell the Knights that she is pregnant? --

The answer to the question is what haunts her, and the reaction of the

Knights is the anxiety that builds up inside of her. These intimidating

fears places Bernadette in a compromising situation, she is in a position

of abandonment by her family and the shame she thinks she has

brought on to the Knights. These fears have forced her to react in

an unusual fashion. Bernadette is so fearful of what they might think

that she tries to hide herself in her work so that she is not placed in the

position where she will have to interact with the Knights.

The fear of failure and disappointment took control over her mind.

When around the Knights she worked as a robot in order not to arouse

ideas of her current condition. Her nervous fears brought her to the

point of giving in to their expectations and allowing herself to lie to them

about the books she read and the men she saw. Her images of her dead

siblings as angels would comfort her fears at time, but would also bring

up new ones. She would wonder about her child and the life that was

waiting for it; would it live a life like hers or would it pray for her in the


The Knights were a couple that were brought together by

convenience and fears. Nora was concord by the fear of not being in

control, she had to be the one person everyone depended on in time of

need. From her positions on committees to the forgiving attitude she

showed Robbie about his many affairs, Nora always had the upper hand

in any given situation. The affairs that Robbie had, showed Nora that he

wasn’t as dependent on her as she wanted him to be, that is why she

would treat the problem as a solvable condition, in order to keep Robbie

under her control. We are told about Robbie’s dreams of being a

playwright and fears of failure and the poverty that might follow. These

fears were reinforced by Nora; her fears of failure, allowed herself to place

her children into private boarding school, so that would not have to

suffer the thoughts of bringing up her children wrong.

All the fears that controlled their lives affirmed their ideas of how

life was to be lived. The fears of being alone