Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town
Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town is a sequence of stories by Stephen Leacock, first published in 1912. It is generally considered to be one of the most enduring classics of Canadian humorous literature. The fictional setting for these stories is Mariposa, a small town on the shore of Lake Wissanotti. Although drawn from his experiences in Orillia, Ontario, Leacock notes: "Mariposa is not a real town. On the contrary, it is about seventy or eighty of them. You may find them all the way from Lake Superior to the sea, with the same square streets and the same maple trees and the same churches and hotels."
This work has remained popular for its universal appeal. Many of the characters, though modelled on townspeople of Orillia, are small town archetypes. Their shortcomings and weaknesses are presented in a humorous but affectionate way. Often, the narrator exaggerates the importance of the events in Mariposa compared to the rest of the world. For example, when there is a country-wide election, "the town of Mariposa, was, of course, the storm centre and focus point of the whole turmoil."
The story of the steamboat Mariposa Belle sinking in Lake Wissanotti is one of the best-loved in the set. The apparent magnitude of this accident is lessened somewhat when it is revealed that the depth of the water is less than six feet. Men from the town come to the rescue in an un-seaworthy lifeboat which sinks beneath them just as they are pulled onto the steamer, and the narrator earnestly remarks that this was "one of the smartest pieces of rescue work ever seen on the lake."
Selected list of characters
The following characters play are interwoven through the set of twelve stories of Sunshine Sketches:
- Josh Smith, proprietor of Smith's Hotel, one of the leading citizens of the town.
- Jefferson Thorpe, owner of the barber shop, who engages in mining speculations.
- Golgotha Gingham, the undertaker, to whom people are less interesting when still alive.
- Dean Rupert Drone, reverend of the "Church of England Church," who has to deal with the debt from building a new church.
- Peter Pupkin, a bank teller who loves the Judge's daughter.
- Zena Pepperleigh, Judge Pepperleigh's daughter. She likes to read romantic stories.
- Dr. Gallagher, collector of Indian relics and student of Canadian history.
- Mr Hussell, journalist for the Mariposa Newspacket.
- Christie Johnson, captain of the Mariposa Belle.
- Henry Mullins, manager of the Mariposa Exchange Bank.
- Narrator, an unreliable narrator, whose descriptions of the town are biased or absurd.
Television adaptation (1952)
In 1952, the book was adapted into a television series, Sunshine Sketches, by CBC Television, the network's first foray into Canadian-produced drama. The cast of the series included John Drainie as the Narrator, Paul Kligman as John Smith, Timothy Findley as Peter Pupkin, Eric House as Dean Drone, Peg Dixon as Liliane Drone and Robert Christie as Golgotha Gingham.
Television adaptation (2012 TV movie)
A second television adaptation, also on CBC, premiered in 2012. It stars Gordon Pinsent and Jill Hennessy. Two of Leacock stories in Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town were featured on the made for TV movie, created to coincide with the 100 year anniversary of the publication of Leacock's classic work. The two of Leacock's twelve sketches were "The Marine Excursions of the Knights of Pythias" and "The Hostelry of Mr. Smith." The stories are a mix of fact and fiction; drawing on details of Leacock's own life and that of his literary creation.
- Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich (1914), widely viewed as the companion to Sunshine Sketches
- Stephen Leacock Award
- CBC Radio Canada. First Look: Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, CBC Books. Retrieved on: 2013-01-21.
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