Consolation and Articulation in Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners

  • Lynette Hunter


Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners is a novel of attentive social consciousness examining the interaction of the individual and the constructions of Canadian society in the mid-twentieth century. Unusually for its time, the novel presents a relentless refusal to be heroic or to search for determinist patterns. Yet rather than the bleak canvas of modernist writing or the brightly coloured juggling collage of the postmodern, Laurence draws a picture of necessary action, for her an action of articulation, in the midst of social and political structures that work by repressing articulation because it exposes the points of contradiction in their agenda. The exposure of contradiction is part of the humanist resistance to a determinist/liberal tyranny, that shuttles between fixed structure and positionless flux breeding both complacency and fear, grabbing at tradition or heritage or genealogy in the face of change that appears to bring community breakdown.


Determinist Pattern Modernist Writing Romantic Fiction Fixed History Interior Monologue 
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  1. 1.
    M. Laurence, The Diviners (London: McClelland and Stewart, 1974), p. 100; all subsequent quotations are from this edition and are followed by the page number in brackets.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    See also M. Ondaatje, Rat Jelly (Toronto: Coach House Press, 1973), p. 15, ‘blood searching in his head without metaphor’ for an extension of the image.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    See M. McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride (Toronto: Vanguard, 1951).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    A blindness evident in some of the residents of Laurence’s own area who tried to ban The Diviners itself; see P. Morley, Margaret Laurence (Boston: Twayne, 1981) p. 133.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    This counterpointing is well documented in C. Thomas, The Manawaka World of Margaret Laurence (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1976), esp. p. 148.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    I read J. M. Kertzer, Margaret Laurence and her Works (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1987) after writing this essay, but would recommend it for its succinct background to the social as well as the literary issues in Laurence’s work.Google Scholar

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© Lynette Hunter 1990

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  • Lynette Hunter

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