Margaret Laurence Additional Biography

Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Margaret Laurence was born Jean Margaret Wemyss on July 18, 1926, in Neepawa, Manitoba. Her ancestry was a mixture of Scottish and Irish-Canadian. She was an inveterate reader as a child and began to write stories in her childhood. She wrote stories for the school magazine; by the age of thirteen she had imagined a fictional town of Manawaka, clearly based on Neepawa. Later she would portray that town of Manawaka as the context for her heroines’ varied experiences.

Laurence’s father, Robert Wemyss, was a lawyer, and her mother, Verna Simpson, was a musician. Her maternal grandfather was a cabinetmaker and became the town undertaker. Laurence’s youth was marked with tragic losses and remarkable adaptations on the part of her family. When Laurence was four, her mother died suddenly, and her aunt came to live with her father and her. This aunt, Margaret Simpson, married Laurence’s father a year later, and the couple had one child, Robert. Laurence and her stepmother developed a close relationship that persisted throughout Laurence’s formative years. Tragedy struck again four years later when Laurence’s father died. Laurence’s stepmother faced an uncertain future since she was a woman rearing two children alone. Help arrived in the person of Laurence’s maternal grandfather, eighty-two years old and also recently widowed, who came to live with them. The grandfather was in good health and became a strong influence in Laurence’s life. Although her stepmother often became engaged in bitter conflicts with her stubborn grandfather, the two provided a stable environment for Laurence and her brother.

Laurence went to college in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and continued to write. In 1947, she was graduated and became a reporter. That same year she married an engineer, Jack...

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Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Margaret Laurence was always faithful to her Canadian roots as a writer. Her depiction of life on the harsh prairie landscape, particularly her creation of the fictional town of Manawaka, which functions as the setting for four of her novels and a short-story collection, is an integral part of the sense of place in her works. Her creation of strong women characters and her treatment of themes relevant to women’s experiences place her in the forefront of feminist writing. Laurence portrays women who overcome problems of identity, limited roles, the complexities of motherhood, and the perils of marriage relationships. Laurence probes the nuances of communication in human relationships and exposes the difficulties faced by individuals who seek to uncover secrets about their pasts and about themselves.

Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Jean Margaret Wemyss Laurence was one of Canada’s most successful and influential twentieth century novelists. Her mother died when she was young, and her father, after remarrying and having one son, died when that child was two years old. In 1938 the widow and her two children moved in with her autocratic father in Neepawa. In Laurence’s autobiographical stories in A Bird in the House, the grandfather appears as an authority against which the heroine and her widowed mother struggle. Laurence’s themes—struggles against oppressive forces, search for identity, and attempts to overcome failures in communication—developed from this situation. The fictional town of Manawaka is based on her hometown.

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Biography

(Novels for Students)

Margaret Laurence was born Jean Margaret Wemyss on July 18, 1926, in the small town of Neepawa, Manitoba, Canada, to Robert Wemyss and Verna...

(The entire section is 410 words.)

Biography

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

From her own experience, Laurence created a story cycle consisting of five books, each of which features a strong female protagonist. Of the five, The Stone Angel (1964), A Jest of God (1966), and The Diviners (1974) were all denounced as immoral. Published during a time of rising Canadian conservatism, The Diviners was subjected to particularly vicious attacks. Although it won Canada’s prestigious Governor General’s Medal for Fiction and the coveted Molson Prize, the novel became the focus of a 1976 effort by right-wing Protestant churches to remove it from the grade thirteen curriculum in Peterborough, Ontario. Two years later the book was subjected to yet another attempt to remove it—along with J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951) and John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (1937)—from grade thirteen English in southeastern Ontario.

The Diviners is a coming-of-age story that includes—like many of Laurence’s other novels—earthy language and moderately explicit depictions of sexuality. Nonetheless, many critics believe that Laurence suffered at the hand of censors primarily for her attempts to portray the development of female independence.