dijous, 13 d’agost de 2009

MARGARET LAURENCE (3)



Morag's speech is direct, yet her calculated denial of her past precludes any creative interaction between them. Their marriage gives Morag the external objects of bourgeois life (the acceptable apartment, the clothes, the status of "professor's wife"), but at the cost of her genuine class identity and especially at the cost of her language. Morag gets, in her own words, what she wanted but not what she bargained for.

Apparent escape from Manawaka society degenerates into another equally limiting social prison. Denied even her own mode of speech, she is forced into the covert, silent activity of writing. The novel allows her to exist as a composite self, rediscovering her creative expression without overtly challenging her bourgeois existence. Still, the achievement of writing a novel becomes a material force to break through the walls of self-chosen silence. The dust jacket of the completed novel (a spear piercing a human heart) is an emblematic reproduction of the Logan crest; as such it functions as a formal reminder that the roots of her creative expression rest in Christie's tales and spiels. The rediscovery of written expression turns backward to make the nonexpression of bourgeois pseudo-speech impossible. Significantly, Morag's final break with Brooke and his world is precipitated by an outburst of Christie-like oaths. Repossession of her own voice has been as liberating as her conscious decision to leave with Jules.

When Morag leaves Brooke, she enters an existence whose visible images recreate her Manawaka past. The known friend Jules, the brown linoleum and wooden chairs of the Jarvis Street roominghouse, Maggie Telfer's grey unpainted boardinghouse reminiscent of the houses on Hill Street - all these reconstruct the once rejected environment. Through this world she can re-experience the creative potential so long sublimated. Now creation is no longer merely the isolated woman writing in the apartment tower. On all levels it recovers class identity: novel writing becomes necessary labour; the birth of her daughter confirms a social responsibility Brooke's individualism could never allow; her friendship with Fan Brady re-establishes a sociability impossible in Toronto university society. The crucial difference is that she rediscovers the social environment of Manawaka in terms of class solidarity and human relationships. The desperate and debilitating need to escape from Manawaka space is lifted, and, since she has consciously freed herself f rom the confusion between the false domination of space and actual social oppression, she can eventually return to the small Manawaka-like McConnell's Landing.

The Diviners shows the oral tradition to be most liberating when its is deeply rooted in history. The tales teach Morag to understand basic patterns of struggle and oppression. Because the tales are never mere material fact, she can reject the slavish adoration of Scottish ancestry taught in the households and identify the parallels between the Highland Clearances and the seizure of land from the Métis in the Canadian west.

Even in the tales themselves, oral communication has irreparable distortion; for the original language has been destroyed, and the stories live only in the imposed language of imperialist England:

The imposition of English on the vocal tone and pattern of French or Cree or Gaelic linguistically renders the domination of English imperialism after the defeat of Batoche or Culloden. Consequently, it is in the preservation of socio-historical experience against formidable pressures, not, as Innis suggests, in an atemporal universality, that the oral tradition communicates creative possibility.

Equally, The Diviners complicates Innis' suggestion that writing and printing are rendered adjuncts of imperial expansion. Writing is a means by which Morag can both formalize her denied past feelings and criticize them from the greater perception of present understanding. Each novel reworks her lived experience while simultaneously removing it from the limited particularity of a specific individual's experience. Spear of Innocence retells the destructive consequences of a naive young girl's attempt to escape from a northern lumber town; Prospero's Child, a young woman's marriage to a dominating man and her struggle to liberate herself; Jonah, a resentment towards a disreputable father. Written from experience, the novels cannot fail to represent herself; yet, formalized by a reflective, critical consciousness, they never merely reproduce the experiencing self. The novels act as a mediation between individual experience and the broad socio-historical patterns suggested by the tales. Indeed, in the final novel - Shadow of Eden - Morag is able to modify critically, to supercede, the limitations of both Scottish and Métis tales by incorporating them into the structure of a historical novel. In Vancouver Morag had been unable to present the Piper Gunn tale satisfactorily as a short story. Only when integrated into the socio-history of the whole Canadian west does it live as written communication.

Writing, however, is by its nature less social than oral communication. For Morag writing was initially liberating because it allowed her to act, to break through the passivity that her social role - "professor's wife" - had forced upon her. Yet the act of writing is essentially individual and must always be separated by time f rom its complementary opposite, the act of reading. Any interaction between writer and reader takes place in each isolated consciousness. Because of its essential introspective quality, intensified by the proliferation and formality of printed words, writing becomes the medium of a careful and sustained process of thought. It is essential to the communication of Morag's reflective development towards greater self-consciousness, but it is not the only means of communication. Nor is it presented as the most important. Equally powerful is the intuitive understanding Morag acknowledges between Jules and Pique:

Such nonverbal recognition portrays the unwritten expressiveness of the Manawaka oppressed: Christie's divining of the garbage, Lazarus' tales of the, Métis rebels, the first glance of solidarity between Jules and Morag. Jules' songs give formal expression to this unwritten, and often unworded, communication.

Like Morag's novels, especially like Shadow of Eden, Jules' songs articulate the Métis tales and his own lived experience. Unlike a novel, the songs are an immediately shared social experience. While Morag despairs that she cannot give Pique "a shelf of novels," Jules' songs can be freely given and freely shared. Most importantly, the songs mediate between the chronicles of heroic struggle in the tales of Rider Tonnerre and Old Jules and the actual suffering in the lives of Lazarus, Val, and Piquette. Heroic defiance is qualified by genuine pain, while at the same time the possible end of suffering is made concrete in the struggle against oppression. The songs do not elevate suffering to an eternal, unchangeable condition (as, for instance, do the discussions about Gerard Manley Hopkins in Brooke's class); nor do they subsume individual experience in a false universality.

It is similarly important to understand that The Diviners is not merely a testament of faith in the divining power of either written or oral communication. The radical innovation of the novel lies in its recognition that all forms of communication are limited and distorted by the pressuring social structures they necessarily inhabit. On a simple level, Morag is constantly baffled by the reviews of her novels. Similarly, Jules' songs too often encounter the blank wall of customers in the taverns, Most of them "middle-aged middle-class men out with hired women, painting, as they imagine, the town red, and dead-drunk". Their calls for the pallid country and western songs popularized by the mass media drown Jules' own voice in a barrage of incomprehensibility. This emphasis on the limitations class realities force upon any form of communication powerfully complicates Innis' assumption that the bias of communication exists primarily in the form of the technology. By reasserting the priority of external class structures over all forms of communication, The Diviners makes the search for means of communication necessarily a struggle against the imposed distortions of social hierarchies. The struggle to speak - whether it is Morag's act of writing in the tower apartment or Jules' attempt to sing his songs to an audience of drunken businessmen - is always a struggle within and against social structures.