dimecres, 12 d’agost de 2009

MARGARET LAURENCE (2)



Laurence suggests that the reinvention of the past - the rediscovery of time - cannot begin from written record, but is evoked through the negation of print in Christie's storytelling. The fluidity of the oral tradition allows Christie to fashion the Piper Gunn tales so that they portray both Morag's personal ancestors and the history of the Scottish immigration during the Highland enclosures. Just as the death of her parents forced the young child out of the secure imaginative world of the farm, the tales begin with the expulsion of Scottish crofters from their lands: "All the lands of Sutherland will be raising the sheep, says the she-devil, for they'll pay better than folk" (p. 49). In the tales, Morag learns that oppression and the courage to struggle against it are not isolated individual responses but continuous throughout time. A sense of the past is the beginning of an understanding that the spatial confines of Manawaka are not absolute.

However necessary the Piper Gunn tales are to develop Morag's sense of her own past, they represent, to use the word Laurence invents, "infactuality." Although they genuinely convey the spirit of the Scottish immigrants' struggles, they are historically inaccurate. More precisely, the tales tell only part of the story and, taken alone, disguise the whole movement of Canadian history. The limitations of the Piper Gunn tales become starkly obvious in the final two stories of the "long march" and "the rebels." Once the Scots are settled in Canada, their class position shifts. No longer dispossessed landless immigrants they are forced to defend their newly acquired space against those who are now the dispossessed. the Métis and the Indians. The ultimate falsification is not any factual misconception, but the perception of another active struggling people as passive and inert. The Métis are less than human, merely a part of nature. A similar contradiction forms Morag's uncertain perception of Manawaka society. Her sense of identification with the assurance and courage of the Scottish immigrants is negated by her actual lived experience in Manawaka. Although her conscious self-image is constructed around pride in her Scottish ancestory, to the petit-bourgeois Scots she is associated with the other residents of Hill Street, with the poverty of the Winklers, with the Ukrainian railway workers, with the scavenger Christie. To Mrs. Cameron and Mrs. McVitie she is merely an object to be pitied; to their sons and daughters, an object to be taunted.

Resolution of these contradictions is a slow and difficult process. Like the river that flows both ways, development of conscious understanding is never presented as a unilinear progression. Instead, it is a hesitating movement towards perception, often thwarted by retreat into confusion and mystification. Morag's insight into self and her society is both intensified and complicated by her identification with Jules Tonnerre. Driven from their lands in the last century, the Métis literally possess no living space. Morag has learned that they are mysterious and unmentionable.

"Belonging nowhere" is the significant image. Because the Métis have no land, Jules cannot be deceived that his identity is centered on present space instead of past time. His first glance at Morag, a silent, nonverbal communication, affirms a solidarity against the social humiliation of the classroom. From Jules, Morag hears Lazarus' tales of Rider Tonnerre and Old Jules, stories that confirm her intuitive identification with Riel. Her intense but incomplete love-making with Jules serves as an emblem of her uncertain consciousness: she has begun to construct a self-image based on class identification, yet oppression still seems to be based in the spatial world of Manawaka. Freedom appears as escape from that space.

To leave Manawaka is a deceptive and insidious freedom. Instead of moving toward resolution and understanding Morag is pushed into an existence of heightened contradiction. Her actual living space - the Crawley's house - resembles the Hill Street environment from which she fled. In contrast, the smooth bourgeois world of the university demands that she remould herself even to the extent of relearning language.