March 29, 2013 by Vicki
I read Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners twice before I felt able to write my perspective on the novel. I found the book extremely dense in its meanings and overtones. Morag Gun, however, is my new personal hero. I love the way she faces her own life and can be critical about her actions and decisions. In telling our own stories, we should always tell the full, unvarnished truth.
Truth, however, is a difficult concept. Characters in The Diviners struggle constantly to find the truth about themselves and their history. Morag eventually decides that there is no one truth only your experience of it. During the course of The Diviners different people tell the story of Louis Riel and his Rebellion. Each one tells the story differently depending on their background and experiences. Jules Tonnerre, a Métis, sings of his grandfather involvement with the rebellion and how its failure destroyed his spirit. Christie Logan, on the other hand, a Scotsman whose family had immigrated to Canada, tells how his ancestor, Piper Gunn, rallied his people to defend their land. Each describing the same event based on their ancestral experience of it. Morag struggles to unite these different interpretations but, eventually, accepts that our history is based on our ancestral experience of it.
Our experiences, also, determine our character as Morag discover in Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners. Morag Gunn starts off with the belief that home is what she must escape. She is embarrassed by her adopted parents, Christie and Prin, and never felt that she belonged in the small town of Manawaka. Christie works as the town’s garbage man and is referred to as the “Scavenger.” Christie believes, however, that they mock him because he knows the things that they have hidden in the garbage dump, colloquially known as “the Nuisance Ground.” Christie shares some of the town’s secrets with Morag, including the burial of an aborted baby girl. I believe Christie tries to show Morag the truth to armor her for her own future. Morag only knows that the town folk include her in their exclusion of Christie and Prin from “proper society”. She, eventually, makes it out of the town to go to school.
Morag discovers, however, that she brings her experiences and the town with her wherever she goes. She knows the secrets hidden in the Nuisance Grounds and therefore, cannot hide them herself. In her youth, she had hidden who she truly was from her first husband. She had made every effort to “conceal everything about herself which he might not like” (Laurence, 213). Her desire to please him translated into her becoming a blank slate for him to mould. Her own pride and strength of character, however, eventually found the moulds entrapping. She realizes that her first marriage with Brooke hurts both of them and eventually, finds a way to end the marriage. I could not help but see the correlation between Morag and the women in my post “The Dating Game.” She also believed that what she was had no worth. Only as Morag grew older did she discover her own worth.
Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners tells the story of Morag Gunn as she struggles to find truth and love. I don’t think it would be a spoiler to say that she does find both but not in the way that she expected. Morag’s life struggles reflect the struggles of many Canadian woman. She had to find a way to balance her own needs with the demands of her world. Her experiences form her into a strong, determined woman from who we can all learn.