When Hebert wrote the poem, her native Quebec was undergoing a drastic change known as the Quiet Revolution. During this time period, many residents stressed the need for a unique Quebec culture, a sentiment that ultimately led to a movement that advocated separating from Canada. As Hébert notes in her preface to the book, she feels that Quebec can never have its own identity without a unique language. In her mind, the imprecise language that existed in Quebec in 1960 kept the province from achieving cultural autonomy. The poem, then, through its depiction of a difficult conversion, symbolized with nature imagery, becomes Hébert's attempt to ritually give birth to this language of Quebec.
The Alchemy of Day