Study Guide

Murther and Walking Spirits

by Robertson Davies

Murther and Walking Spirits Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Although it begins in the present day, Murther and Walking Spirits is a multigenerational novel that spans more than two hundred years of family and national history. Its narrator and protagonist, Connor Gilmartin, is the entertainment editor of a newspaper called the Advocate. It is tempting to equate Gilmartin with Robertson Davies, who was also a newspaperman and whose family histories share many details with the fictional ones presented here, but there are some significant differences, not the least of which is age; Connor Gilmartin is a full generation younger than Davies, who has perhaps as much in common with Connor’s father, Brochwel, as with the narrator.

The story of Connor Gilmartin’s murder and afterlife, during which he attends a film festival with his murderer and colleague Allard Going, known as the Sniffer, forms a frame for the multigenerational flashback that constitutes most of the narrative. Other significant characters from the frame portion of the novel include Gilmartin’s adulterous wife, Esme Baron, and his friend and spiritual advisor, Hugh McWearie. He recounts earlier conversations with McWearie that cover Christianity, Buddhism, Celtic mythology, and Emanuel Swedenborg and continue the Jungian theme that can be found in many of Davies’s other novels.

Although he is unable to haunt his killer or make himself known to anybody who is alive, Gilmartin finds himself bound to Allard Going and is...

(The entire section is 539 words.)