Remebering Vimy Essay

2737 words - 11 pages

Whether it be depictions of the “noble savage” or a red-clad, horse-riding Mountie patrolling the northern nation, Canadians have a knack for creating a mythical element to their past. Deconstructing national myths has become a burgeoning field of academic inquiry as evidenced by monographs such as Daniel Francis’ in his book National Dreams: Myth, Memory, and Canadian History. A central event in the Canadian consciousness, with much national sentiment attached to it, is that of Vimy Ridge. On April 9, 2007 over thirty-five hundred high school students from across Canada congregated at the newly restored Canadian National Vimy Memorial near Vimy, France. Their presence marked the 90th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and commemorated Canadian soldiers who fought and died on Easter Monday 1917. A patriotic scene to behold, students dressed in replica World War I uniform shirts, proudly waving Canadian flags, spontaneously singing rousing renditions of “Oh Canada,” whilst the commemoration slogan “Birth of a Nation” was flashed on oversized television screens and sported on the event’s tourist memorabilia.
How did Canadian students of all different ethnic and class backgrounds come to be at Vimy at the same time? Better yet, why did such a multitude of young adults pay to be at the same place at the same time? In order to understand why over thirty-five hundred Canadian students – accompanied by numerous teachers, parents, veterans, news crews and dignitaries – made their way over the Atlantic Ocean to the Vimy Memorial, one must trace the history of the “Vimy myth” from its founding, conception and creation to its national perpetuation. A study of this myth will divulge that, in the pre-Vimy era endeavours were made in Canada to generate national symbols and, as historian Dave Inglis states, “[laid] the groundwork for the creation and promotion of Vimy as a symbol of nationhood”. This essay examines the myth formation of Vimy Ridge in the English-Canadian myth-symbol complex. Through an examination of the military achievements upon which the “Vimy myth” is based, global and local views of the success at Vimy, the foundation of Vimy as national myth will be examined. The cultural aftershock shown through the magnitude of published poetry and construction of a National Monument, and how the Battle of Vimy Ridge is taught in English-Canadian secondary education systems will divulge an analyse of “Vimy Ridge” as an active part of the English-Canadian ‘imagined community’s’ myth-symbol complex ninety years after its conception. Although among Allied powers, the Battle of Vimy Ridge remains only a part of the much larger British offensive, the Battle of Arras. For Canadians, however, Vimy is perpetuated through Canadian history as the birthplace of English-Canadian nationhood from a time when it lacked a strong global presence on the international stage.
Before an examination of the perpetuation of Vimy as a national myth within Canadian...

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