Every Woman Is A Novel :A Jest Of God
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Every Woman Is A Novel :A Jest Of God
Rachel often addresses her thoughts to God. How does she imagine Him (Her
or It)? Does Rachel\'s concept of God change during the course of the
Rachel Cameron, the heroine of "A Jest of God", is not simply as an
individual literary character but as a psychological portrayal of women
of Rachel\'s time and inclination. Even we can easily find someone who has
the same problem Rachel has in the friends of us, or maybe in an early
morning when we get up; stand at front of the mirror; we will suddenly
have a idea, "I am Rachel too."
She has a common Cameron heritage. She is a gawky, introverted spinster
schoolteacher who has returned home to Manawaka from university in
Winnipeg, upon the death of her alcoholic undertaker father Niall
Cameron, to care for her hypochondriac mother May. Nevertheless, the
family resemblance is obvious: their shared Scots Presbyterian ancestry,
which Laurence views as distinctively Canadian, provides an armour of
pride that imprisons her within their internal worlds, while providing a
defence against the external world. To overcome that barrier between
personalities, she must learn to understand and accept their heritage in
order to liberate her own identities and free herself for the future. She
must also learn to love herself before she can love others. Rachel
receive a sentimental education through a brief love affair: as a result
of learning to empathize with their lovers, she learn to love herself and
the people she lives with. Laurence\'s emphasis is, as always, on the
importance of love in the sense of compassion, as each of her solipsistic
protagonists develops from claustrophobia to community.
The beginning of "A Jest of God" extends beyond its Canadian perimeters
in Rachel\'s branching imagination, both into the fairytale dream world
which gives depth and pathos to the disappointment and despair of her
present and out into a wider world in time and space than the grey little
town of Manawaka. The first lines of the novel tell us everything basic
to Rachel\'s mind, her temperament, and her situation.
The wind blows low, the wind blows high
The snow comes falling from the sky,
Rachel Cameron says she\'ll die
For the want of the golden city.
She is handsome, she is pretty,
She is the queen of the golden city.
They are not actually chanting my name, of course, I only hear it that
way from where I am watching the classroom window, because I remember
myself skipping rope to that song when I was about the age of the little
girls out there now. Twenty-seven years ago... (p. 1)
The reader is engaged in sympathy with Rachel by the sadness of the gap
between her dream-self, "Queen of the Golden City," and her reality, shut
in behind her classroom window, looking out and worrying about becoming
an eccentric spinster, that stereotyped butt of cruel laughter. But we
are also engaged by the range and the quality of Rachel\'s imagination --
and it is this, continuing through the book, that holds our sympathy, our
interest, and our increasing respect. The golden city is at first the
dream world of Rachel\'s sexual fantasies where she and her prince live
happily ever after; later in the novel it becomes identified with the
golden city of Jerusalem reinterpreted as the growth of the spirit within
the individual, a new dispensation which makes it possible for her to go
on liveing, if not happily ever after, at least affirmatively.
Rachel makes a double journey. She is just thirty-four, a frustrated
spinster, outwardly in bondage to her marcelled, blue-rinsed, anxious,
and superficial mother, but actually in bondage was braking of proper
appearances as set up in her own mind by Manawaka and its expectations.
She is afraid of life and death hangs over her always, especially
symbolized by her dead father\'s vocation, undertaking, and by the
presence underneath her home of the undertaking establishment that had
been her father\'s. She makes a journey into her own mind and personality,
and finally she dares to act upon what she finds there. "A Jest of God"
is a record of a tortured but unremittingly honest journey of
self-analysis and self-therapy. (George Bowering, "That Fool of a Fear")
It is both complicated and daring, in terms of the novelist\'s techniques.
The present, the past, the questionings and fantasies of Rachel are all
woven together instead of being completely separated and counterpointed
as in the former work. All the strands come together in the aftermath of
her affair with Nick Kazlik. Rachel is symbolically
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