A Critical study of Mae Cameron

A Critical Study of Mae Cameron

In Margaret Laurence’s novel a Jest of God, Mae Cameron plays a critical
role in the development of the main character as well as the plot.

Mae Cameron’s fear of isolation in turn causes Rachel not to develop as a
person. Mae is so worried about being left alone that she will stop at nothing
to keep Rachel by her side. Mae Cameron isolates Rachel physically by keeping
her home on bridge nights to serve refreshments to her friends, “Well, dear
you do what you think best. I’d never suggested you shouldn’t go. Only on a
bridge night- well, never mind. We’ll just have to stop playing while I do the
serving, that’s all”(Laurence 106). Mae isolates Rachel emotionally by
trying to control her relationship with Nick. She tells Rachel how inappropriate
it is to date a Ukrainian and at that, the milkman’s son. Mae is most
defiantly unwilling to let Rachel arrive at her own decisions “ Rachel, do you
think you should go out this evening dear? It’s up to you, of course dear, but
I would have thought what with getting back to school and everything”(Laurence
178). Mae is always second guessing Rachel and trying to make her feel guilty,
so she will choose to do her bidding. Rachel in all accounts doesn’t feel like
she has a say over her own life. This is why a women of 34 is still living at
home with her mother and staying home on bridge nights to serve refreshments.

God and religion play a large role not only in the lives of Mae and Rachel
but it also gives insight into their true beliefs. Mae Cameron attends a very
structured and ridged Presbyterian Church every Sunday where nothing ever goes
array. Where as Mae is deathly afraid of the Tabernacle because it does not have
a structured ceremony. People are proclaiming their faith for all to hear,
others are receiving the gift of tongues and the sound of guitars and drums can
be heard playing in the church. Without structure Mae feels unsure of the
situation and that instills fear in her. Mae Cameron is the only reason Rachel
even attends church. Rachel is unsure of her faith and only attends the
Presbyterian Church to please her mother. There is strong evidence to support
the theory that Mae only attends church to be socially accepted in the town. For
example she speaks to Naill about not going to church, “It isn’t very nice
Naill for a man in your position not to go”(Laurence 89). In this exchange
there is only the implication that not going to church may be frowned upon by
the towns’ people, but strangely enough there is no mention of how this act
would be interpreted by God.

Mae Cameron is responsible for Rachel’s journey from adolescence to
adulthood. Mae is to blame for Rachel’s lack of acquaintances by making her
feel guilty every time she tries to leave the house. Mae continually treats
Rachel as a child by always second guessing her decisions. Mae is unwilling to
let Rachel grow as a person in fear that she will become independent and create
her own life that does not include an aging mother. Mae reasons that if she
makes Rachel feel like a child she will be incapable of independent thought and
therefor unable to survive on her own.

The theme of communication is one that really adds insight into the
relationship between Mae and Rachel. Communication between the two is not of
choice but of routine. When they converse there is no substance behind what they
are saying, “walk slowly dear, but hurry back” (Laurence 175) is an excerpt
from typical conversation between the two. They will chat about nothing and they
are quite content to do so, partly because after years of living together they
are incapable of breaking away from their exchanges of hollow dialogue. The only
time they do voice opinions is when they are discussing matters other than their
own or when Mae is giving Rachel advice on how to live her life. The lack of
communication between the two is the major factor resulting in Rachel’s inner
voice. Rachel feels like she has no one else that she can turn to so instead she
decides to deliberate questions she has with herself.

Mae’s inability in allowing Rachel to develop as a social being has been
detrimental to her growth. Rachel has missed out on her formative years of
learning about life and is only