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."

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