Friendship and Trust in A Jest of God by Margaret Laurence

A Jest of God by Margaret Laurence is a novel which tells a story of life of a young woman who is captured in a small town. Rachel Cameron, the protagonist of the novel, can not find her place in life. She desperately looks for friendship and love but rejects them when she gets a chance to build close relationship with somebody. Rachel’s mother suppresses all her initiative and desires. Rachel looks for the way to escape her limitations. She dreams to leave her small town Manawaka but her real limitations are inside.  Rachel spends all time and effort in her job but it does not bring her satisfaction. A Jest of God is a story of limitations and restrictions which other people and circumstances put on us. The author also underlines that very often people themselves rejects their opportunities, same like the protagonist of the novel does. Rachel longs for love and friendship but can not accept them when she gets the chance. To great extend the novel explores relations between children and parents and influence parents have on the lives of their children. Rachel is 34 years old but she still can not  become independent and take control over her life. Her suppressive mother does not let her take any decisions of her own. The author shows how friendship and trust help the protagonist to make a long path of personal transformation.  Friendship is an important part of our life. It gives meaning to relations between people and helps people to uncover their inner self. True personality can be developed only through interaction with other people and friendship is one of them. Laurence puts much attention to relations between children and their parents and the novel illustrates how family relations influence all further life of the protagonist. Trust and ability to build relations with other people are usually formed during the period of childhood. In Jest of God we can trace how parents and family upbringing becomes the main limitations the protagonist  meets in her life. Rachel wants to come in terms with the rest of the world and find her place in the society. She has to deal with the problems which follow her since childhood. In her novel Laurence gives deep psychological insight into the relations between children and parents. Contemporary psychology proves that children unconsciously follow all their parent’s wishes even though these wishes are destructive. Children always treat their mothers as something divine and holy. Girls want to be like their mothers and boys want to do everything to make their mothers pleased. Having such a power over children mothers must be conscious of their every step and be a perfect example for their children. In the book we see how mother’s unlimited influence creates limitations and restrictions for the protagonist. Mother’s every word and even gesture can be of great importance for her children and their attitude forms children’s relations with the rest of the world. Lack of normal communication and understanding with her mother prevents Rachel from building normal relations with other people. Rachel experiences manipulation and restriction from the very childhood and that is the reason she can not trust other people and can not build friendly relations with other people. Limitations which parents created in her childhood become later inner limitations which exist in the form of thoughts, fears and mistrust to other people.

Rachel rebels against restrictions of her parents and starts a long search for the source of power inside of herself. Her affair with her childhood friend Nick Kazlik becomes a new experience to Rachel. This short relationship becomes a meaningful event for Rachel’s transformation. Their connection becomes not a simple love affair. There are many things which unite them. Lack of communication becomes a serious obstacle in their relations.  Despite communication with Nick is extremely difficult for Rachel he becomes that person who awakes her emotions and fantasies. Nick also tries to deal with his fears. Nick and Rachel reflect each other and despite their relations end soon they help Rachel to reach in important point on her path of personal transformation. This short affair gives Rachel new vision of herself, discovers her sexuality and helps her to rebel against strict norms of her mother. Despite she experiences a lot of fear, pain and offence because of this relationship it sill becomes an important step to independence and freedom.  The novel gives a deep insight into the inner world of the protagonist.  Margaret Laurence creates  a real character who has to deal with real problems and restrictions.  Rachael has to deal with her fears and anxieties in order to discover true meaning of relations between people. The themes of friendship and trust possess an important meaning in the novel. In the beginning of the novel they are described like something Rachel does not have but really wants to achieve.  Since she does not have a positive experience of trustworthy and friendly relationship from her childhood she has to start her long search alone. This journey and inner transformation are perfectly reflected by the epigraph of the novel. Carl Sandburg’s lines from “Losers” show the path the protagonist of the novel has to pass.

If I should pass the tomb of Jonah
I would stop there and sit for awhile;
Because I was swallowed one time deep in the dark
And came out alive after all.

Epigraph speaks about inner journey of the protagonist. Rachel has to reach the deepest and darkest parts of her soul in order to discover true meaning of relationship with other people and come in terms with herself.  In the beginning of the novel Rachel is embarrassed by her passions and feelings. She has difficulty in putting to words her thoughts and desires. She is afraid to share them even with herself and naturally it becomes even more difficult for her to share them with other people. Rachel is not free even in her thoughts. She is afraid of her fantasies and desires and tries to suppress them:  “This must stop. It isn’t good for me. Whenever I find myself thinking in a brooding way, I must simply turn it off and think of something else” (Laurence, 8).  The shadows of her parents enter even her thoughts and do not let her to be completely free. She judges herself and she is scared of other people, especially her mother. Rachel can not accept herself and this her attitude is reflected by her surrounding. Other people do not accept her as well. They treat her with pity and sorrow. Rachel can not let herself come close with other people because she can not believe that she can be interesting to them. She can not accept her looks and thoughts: “my own voice sounds false to my ears” (Laurence, 11). She seeks for intimacy but her fear does not let her to build any close relationship with other people.

Mother raised Rachel according to the strict code of moral behavior. Rachael is afraid of people’s judgment and makes everything possible to become unnoticeable for other people. Her constant feeling of guild persuades her that other people can only judge her and that is the reason she avoids any kind  of contacts and interaction with other people.  Rachel avoids people in order to avoid judgments but finally she becomes her own judge herself. She blames herself for everything: behavior, actions and even thoughts. Mortuary below house symbolizes Rachel’s suppressed feelings and emotions. She does not live a full life and can not build healthy relations with other people.

Rachel’s friendship with Calla Mackie expends Rachel’s vision of people and events. Calla is independent and self-assured. She is not afraid of people as Rachel does. Calla shows Rachel new way to treat people and herself. Calla not only shows Rachel an example of normal relations between people, but also shows her a way to true spirituality. This way friendship becomes one of the tools which help the protagonist to reach her inner self and become liberated from restrictions of her fears and guilt. She gains trust in herself and now becomes able to trust other people and build normal relationship with them.

Rachel has to pass a long journey in order to discover her true inner self. During this journey she has to discover her inner problems and limitations. She has to learn to build relations with other people and her own parents. After restrictions and limitations she had to experience in her childhood she has to find enough power to treat other people with trust and respect.

Leave a Reply