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Trudeaul; The Search For One's Identity

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Many people to this day still do not have a collective agreement on what is the Canadian identity? Depending whom you ask you may get a wide variety of answer spanning the spectrum of possibilities, more so now, than at any point of the history of our nation. This essay will investigate how Pierre Elliott Trudeau found himself as a Canadian, and will demonstrate how it is his surroundings in which he immersed himself that shaped who he became. It is only later in his life that he truly discovered himself as well as his identity. Through the use of John English's biography as our primary reference we will investigate the development in Trudeau's character as he becomes older and experiences turning points in his life.

Well in order to have a better understanding of the matter at hand we should take a quick look at the context of what we are analyzing. Pierre Elliott Trudeau was born October 18, 1919, in Montreal Quebec. Son of a successful French Canadian businessman and lawyer, Pierre Elliott Trudeau grew up in Outremont which was located not so far away from the "Golden Square Mile" which at one point held around three quarters of Canada's millionaire. This should suggest that he will be growing up in a very prestigious neighbourhood usually advocating very conservative if not Victorian views. His mother, Grace Trudeau, was of French and Scottish decent, Grace's father was a prominent businessman who had privileged her with an education at Dunham Ladies' College where #she had acquired an education in literature, classics and etiquette. Both of Trudeau's parents were devout Catholics, they enlisted Pierre in a prestigious Jesuits college which was responsible for the most part of his childhood education and up bringing. While at College Jean-de-Brebeuf, Pierre Elliott Trudeau was immersed in a world of nationalism, conservatism, and very intense Catholicism. Many of his teachers and confidents were ministers of the Jesuit and Dominican order. Brebeuf had a reputation of expelling students who didn't conform or adhere to their norms. All else aside, Trudeau was an exceptional student at the college, usually scored top marks in his class and received many commendation letters from his teachers. This can be seen as a sign of his acceptance to conform to the School's demands, as well as his devotion toward his school work. Pierre's father also played a profound role in his up bringing, #"He taught Pierre boxing, shooting and wrestling tricks. He also made him independent.". Unfortunately for Pierre his father contracted pneumonia and died of a heart attack when Pierre was 15. This catapulted him at the front of the household and demanded him to be strong, independent and self-reliant. The early passing of his father left a scaring wound on Pierre for the rest of his life. In an interview he said, "It was traumatic, very traumatic... I still can't go to a funeral without crying."# The rest of his childhood, and for much of his up bringing, Trudeau was subject to a very strong nationalistic, catholic, conservative view of the world. English even writes that in his biography, "And Pierre, until he turned twenty-one in 1940, was sheltered within the cocoon of Brebeuf, where the atmosphere was decidedly nationalist."# This is clearly apparent through out much of his life. We know that Pierre Trudeau was at one point border-line anti-Semitic. He viewed much of society from a conservative eye and was deeply a Quebec nationalist. We also knew that he was a traditionalist, and that these ideas ran him into many moral conflicts with women. It would seem that Trudeau is confused because the identity he is portraying is that of the society he resides in and not that of the individual.

One of Pierre's friend, and later philosopher, Charles Taylor, once said," the modern search for identity requires 'leaving home'"#. Trudeau seemed to have taken that to heart, because after his graduation in law at the University of Montreal, he applied to study overseas. First at Harvard from 1944-1946, then in Paris from 1946-1947. The change in cultural setting would no doubt affect Pierre, he was going to be surrounded by some of the greatest minds of Europe at Harvard, teaching him about different societies. He was in for a reality shock. The way society works was about to change. Much of it of course clashing with some of the ideals Pierre was taught throughout his childhood and adolescence. For example, "He knew nothing of John Maynard Keynes, whose economic theories were transforming not only the discipline of economics but also the role of the state in postwar economic life."# Like it wasn't until he made it to Harvard that he had someone other than a Catholic priest as a teacher. English makes a note of this on p.124... And for the first time, Trudeau encountered Jewish intellectuals. Even Trudeau admitted, that his experience at Harvard was "intellectually rich" and "an extraordinary window on the world", in which "he felt like being in the symbiosis with the five continents."# Yet the fact of these new ways of thinking did not distract Trudeau in his studies. Being the diligent student he was he mastered these new concepts in economics and graduated with Honours from Harvard. In the end, he does admit that his experience at Harvard did in fact shift his ideology. Harvard was a lesson he did not forget, "It moved Trudeau, who was himself a wealthy man, to the political left."# After being exposed to a broader spectrum of ideologies, Trudeau starts realizing



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