A hallmark of Robertson Davies’ fiction is his ability to fashion fascinating characters rich in psychological foibles and driven to reveal themselves within the gripping plots he has framed for them. As a moralist, Davies strives to demonstrate that destiny is, in fact, character. Each of the principal characters in The Rebel Angels struggles with a fate embedded within his or her psychological makeup, and at least three of the characters consciously struggle with the components at war within them. They are all intellectuals, and one source of tension arises from this question: Does self-knowledge lead to self-mastery?
For the Reverend Simon Darcourt, attraction to Maria Theotoky causes him to imagine abandoning the freedoms of his self-chosen bachelorhood and—since he is a devout Anglican—the requisite celibacy. At forty-five, Darcourt has drawn considerable creative energy from his chosen style of life. The temptation that Maria represents, in part imagined as a form of completion, is blunted by his knowledge that he has mythologized her into the “Sophia” of his theological studies. Darcourt is drawn to the life of the senses, the life of the mind, and the life of the spirit. As a pudgy scholar-priest, he has already turned into himself, and his dalliance with his brilliant and beautiful student becomes a trial that confirms his identity.
Maria is herself split between her desire to be a fully contemporary Western woman...
(The entire section is 553 words.)