Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The Diviners is the fifth and last work in Margaret Laurence’s cycle of fiction concerning Manawaka, a mythical prairie town based in part on her own home, Neepawa, Manitoba. Concerned most conspicuously with one woman’s search for her roots, The Diviners is also an epic tale about the origins of Canada as a whole and the Indian, French, English, and Scottish peoples who formed the nation.

Morag Gunn is the offspring of Scottish immigrants forced off their land in the eighteenth century by the Highland Clearances. Orphaned at five when both parents succumb to polio, Morag is taken in by Christie and Prin Logan. Christie, who served with Morag’s father in World War I, now serves as the town garbage collector, a fact that embarrasses the young Morag to such an extent that she spends the bulk of her life searching for her true parentage.

Laurence portrays Christie and Prin as physically grotesque but pure of spirit. Clothed in clownish overalls and wreathed in offensive odors, Christie is a Manawaka laughingstock, but from the first, he provides Morag with the heroic ancestry she craves, telling her tales of the mythic Piper Gunn, who led the dispossessed crofters to Canada:He was from the Clan Gunn, and it was many of the Gunns who lost their hearths and homes and lived wild on the stormy rocks there. And Piper Gunn, he was a great tall man, a man with the voice of drums and the heart of a child and the gall of a thousand and the strength of conviction. . . . Now Piper Gunn had a woman, and a strapping strong woman she was, with the courage of a falcon and the beauty of a deer and the warmth of a home and the faith of saints, and you may know her name. Her name, it was Morag.

This kind of mythologizing is satisfying only for a time. Despite the generosity shown her by...

(The entire section is 747 words.)