Robertson Davies World Literature Analysis

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 5281

In Stage Voices: Twelve Canadian Playwrights Talk About Their Lives and Work (1978), edited by Geraldine Anthony, Davies said that his work might be categorized ascomedy, in the broadest sense of the term. But I take it to include a great measure of romance, of pathos, of the rueful awareness that life is short in time and that what we understand of it is only a trifle of the whole. . . . The greater part of life is lived in the mode of comedy.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Robertson Davies Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Davies’ comment applies to his novels quite as much as to his plays; they are comedies in the broadest sense of the term. His novels are witty and occasionally even slapstick, as when Professor Vambrace, in Tempest-Tost, attempts to eat grapes while declaiming one of Prospero’s speeches. In a somewhat more technical sense, Davies’ novels are comedies because they are about real human frailties and limitations. If tragedy can be described as the great brought low through the actions of their faults, then perhaps comedy can be defined as the ordinary muddling through while occasionally appearing ridiculous because of their faults. In Tempest-Tost, Hector Mackilwraith, a middle-aged teacher of mathematics, attempts to hang himself in the middle of a production of the The Tempest because he loves a young woman, Griselda, who he knows will never love him. Instead of being tragic, Hector’s suicide attempt is ridiculous: He is told off by the director for disrupting the play and has broken a number of bottles of homemade champagne in his fall, so that at first everyone thinks he is merely drunk. There is pathos in this account of Hector’s misery, but not tragedy.

Hector’s fault is that he has lived an almost purely intellectual life and disregarded, or buried, his emotional side. Even when he ponders being attracted to Griselda, he makes a list of the pros and cons of pursuing her. This theme of the overreliance on intellect to disastrous effect appears also in Fifth Business and, more explicitly, in The Manticore, in which it is treated much more seriously than in Tempest-Tost. In fact, it is a theme that reappears in one guise or another in most of Davies’ novels. In The Rebel Angels, it appears as a conflict between a beautiful graduate student’s “root” and “crown” (using the metaphor of a tree): Maria Theotoky wants to jettison her emotional, irrational Gypsy background, her root, while living in the intellectual ivory tower of the university, her crown. In A Mixture of Frailties, Monica Gall must learn to release the emotion trapped inside her if she wants to become a great singer. Dunstan Ramsay, in Fifth Business, spends his life intellectually examining the lives of saints, something that is at heart intuitive and emotional, and at fifty his “bottled-up feelings have burst their bottle and splashed glass and acid everywhere.”

It is in The Manticore, however, that Davies illustrates this theme most effectively. David Staunton’s whole life has been an attempt to bury his emotions and live by his intellect. He wrongly believes that this is the only way he can survive; upon his father’s mysterious death, emotion breaks through and he decides to enter Jungian analysis to bring order back into his life. The analysis brings David’s true feelings to the fore, and David must acknowledge these feelings before he can be “cured.”

The Manticore is also the book that most explicitly makes use of the work of Carl Jung. As David undergoes analysis and works through his memories and dreams, Davies explains some of the archetypes that Jung identified in his work, such as the shadow, friend, and anima; the aim is to acknowledge and accept these elements in oneself and so achieve a wholeness and knowledge of oneself. David, in his diary, dreams of escaping “the stupider kinds of illusion.” Jung’s ideas are important in most of Davies’s works. In the Cornish Trilogy, especially in The Lyre of Orpheus, Davies makes much of the idea that “we all have a personal myth . . . that has its shape and its pattern somewhere outside our daily world.” Simon Darcourt, a character in The Lyre of Orpheus, learns that his myth is not that of Servant, as he had once thought, but of Fool—the Fool on the tarot card who is being pushed by instinct, represented by a dog, into making discoveries that would otherwise remain in mystery. In the same novel, Arthur, his wife Maria, and Geraint, the father of Maria’s baby, are playing out the roles of the cuckolded King Arthur, Guenevere, and Lancelot. Dunstan Ramsay, in Fifth Business, is Fifth Business, the man in opera who, while not the most important character, “knows the secret of the hero’s birth, or comes to the assistance of the heroine when she thinks all is lost.”

To Davies, a myth is a way of approaching the archetypes that are true for all people at all times. It provides people with the “power to see themselves objectively” because it is an outside measure, not one made up by the individual. Personal myth acknowledges one’s place in the scheme of things; it allows one to know what and who one is while escaping “the stupider kinds of illusion.” Jung is also an important presence in Murther and Walking Spirits, in which the protagonist meets and converses with his anima, his feminine inner self, consistent with one of Jung’s most important concepts.

In identifying Dunstan Ramsay as Fifth Business, Davies uses characters from opera that are essentially melodramatic: the Hero, the Heroine, the Villain, the Rival, and Fifth Business. Davies has written that “Melodrama is an art in which Good and Evil contend, and in which the dividing line between Good and Evil may often be blurred, and in which Good may often be the winner.” In World of Wonders, the hero, Magnus Eisengrim, undergoes severe mistreatment as a child; he is abducted and sodomized by a magician with a traveling carnival, made to spend long hours hidden inside a mechanical effigy, working its machinery so as to impress the carnival-goers, and is otherwise abused and ignored. That is certainly evil. Yet the result is that Magnus becomes a very great magician, a master illusionist, something that he would never have become had he spent his life in Deptford, where he was born. Here the dividing line between good and evil is blurred, and it seems that good is the winner.

Davies also employs elements of satire, especially in his earlier works. In Tempest-Tost and Leaven of Malice, particularly, Davies pokes fun at some of the social conventions of Salterton, the town in which they are set, and deflates the pretensions of some of the characters. Yet rather than satire, which Davies claims he never intended to write, perhaps one should use the term “comedy of manners” to describe these novels. He examines the follies of the opinions and behaviors of various characters, and his favorite target is the person with a self-deluding sense of importance. In Leaven of Malice, he pokes fun at a character who tries to apply psychological precepts facilely: “The chapter on Freudian psychology in his general textbook had not, after all, equipped him to deal with a tiresomely literal professor of classics who knew Oedipus at first hand, so to speak.”

Davies is convinced of the importance of the individual, but he is concerned with the individual who knows or comes to know himself or herself, not the self-deluding fool. The books of the Deptford Trilogy, in particular, written for the most part in the first person, are about the growth in self-knowledge of the individual. Several of Davies’ books are bildungsromans; they recount the development, the education, of a young person reaching for maturity. World of Wonders is one such novel; so is A Mixture of Frailties, the third novel in the Salterton Trilogy. In it, Monica Gall leaves her family and Canada for England, where she has several teachers who each, in their way, teach her not only music and singing but also how to value herself and her opinions. Monica comes from an essentially anti-intellectual, culturally deprived background; part of her development is learning which parts of her background are part of her and valuable to her and which are not.

This tension between family and individual is a recurrent pattern in Davies’ novels. In Tempest-Tost and Leaven of Malice, Solly Bridgetower and Pearl Vambrace each have an overpowering parent to overcome; in A Mixture of Frailties, Solly’s mother even exerts her dominance beyond the grave in her humiliating will, which says that Solly will not inherit until he and Pearl have a son. Making a break between domineering parent and submissive child is not the only way to portray and deal with the tension between the two, however; that would be far too simplistic. Both Monica in A Mixture of Frailties and Maria in The Rebel Angels have to come to terms with their parents, accepting them for what they are. Maria fights her mother’s Gypsy inheritance but must acknowledge it if she wants to be wholly herself.

Davies includes a huge amount of ideas, themes, and arcane knowledge in his books. What’s Bred in the Bone discusses undertaking, art, alchemy, astrology, and spying. The Rebel Angels includes François Rabelais, Paracelsus, Gypsy lore, the tarot, and more. Davies does not expect his reader to be knowledgeable about these things; what the reader needs to know is adequately, and often amusingly, explained.

The Deptford Trilogy

First published: Fifth Business, 1970; The Manticore, 1972; World of Wonders, 1975

Type of work: Novels

A snowball thrown with a stone in it has consequences for the lives of three men.

The publication of Fifth Business, the first novel in the Deptford Trilogy, marked a deepening of Davies’ novelistic talents. His previous novels (the Salterton Trilogy), while amusing and certainly not devoid of ideas, lack the depth of thought and power that characterizes Fifth Business. Davies has said that when he began Fifth Business, he had no intention of writing a trilogy; the subsequent two novels arose because he found that he had more to say about some of the characters. Each novel can stand completely on its own, yet there is a link between the novels. They express some of the same ideas and themes in different ways, and the reader is richer for having read the others.

In a speech transcribed in One Half of Robertson Davies (1977), Davies commented that Fifth Business arose from his examination of the extent to which one is responsible for the outcome of one’s actions and when this responsibility begins. He decided thatit began with life itself, and that a child was as responsible as anyone else if it chose a course of action knowingly. In Fifth Business . . . a boy makes a choice: he wants to hurt his companion, so he throws a snowball at him, and in the snowball is a stone. . . . The consequences of the snowball with the stone in it continue for sixty years, and do much to shape the lives of three men.

The boy who threw the stone is Percy Boyd Staunton; He aimed it at Dunstan Ramsay, and it hit the mother of Magnus Eisengrim. Fifth Business examines the life of Ramsay; The Manticore looks at Boy Staunton’s life and the effect it has had on his son, David Staunton; and World of Wonders concerns Magnus Eisengrim.

Fifth Business begins at 5:58 p.m. on December 27, 1908, in a small Canadian town in Ontario called Deptford. That is the exact time that Percy Boyd Staunton threw the snowball that Dunstan Ramsay sidestepped. Ramsay took evasive action knowingly and feels guilty when he realizes that the snowball meant for him has caused Mary Dempster to lose her wits and to have her baby, Paul, prematurely. This scenario is the beginning of Ramsay’s involvement with Mrs. Dempster, who becomes more than simply a responsibility to him; Ramsay comes to see her as a saint. Whether or not she is a saint is important only to Ramsay. An old Jesuit questions him: “who is she in your personal world? What figure is she in your personal mythology? . . . [Y]ou must find your answer in psychological truth, not in objective truth.” What Mary Dempster has done is to enrich Ramsay’s life. Through her ability to love without fear, she has given him an entry into the world of the spirit.

After being wounded at Passchendaele, Ramsay’s is not a particularly unusual life. He attends a university, gets a position as a teacher of history at a boys’ school, and begins writing books on saints for travelers, as well as producing a book on the psychology of myth and legend. Finally, on a sabbatical to South America visiting churches and studying local legends of saints, he again meets Paul Dempster, who has become Magnus Eisengrim, and meets Magnus’s manager, Liesl Vitzlipützli. Liesl is a gargoyle of a woman who, along with Mrs. Dempster and the Jesuit priest, becomes one of Ramsay’s most important teachers. She forces him to find out who he is in his “personal world”: “Who are you? Where do you fit into poetry and myth? Do you know who I think you are, Ramsay? I think you are Fifth Business.”

Fifth Business quite accurately reflects the role Ramsay has played in his relationship to Boy Staunton. Boy considers Ramsay an eccentric and old friend but one who is unsuccessful in the way in which Boy measures success. If Fifth Business “knows the secret of the hero’s birth,” then Ramsay fits the bill, for he knows Boy’s beginnings, his traits established from boyhood, better than Boy does himself. Ramsay’s final act as Fifth Business in Boy’s life is to force him to examine his actions and take responsibility for them: “I’m simply trying to recover something of the totality of your life. Don’t you want to possess it as a whole—the bad with the good?” Possessing one’s life as a whole—the bad with the good—is essentially what Fifth Business is about.

Ramsay, over many years and with the help of such teachers as Liesl, comes to know himself essentially through his own efforts. In The Manticore, David Staunton, the son of Boy Staunton, has inherited his father’s lack of self-knowledge and goes to Switzerland for Jungian analysis in an attempt to put his life back together. Boy’s ignorance of his true nature has a lasting detrimental effect on his son: David struggles very hard before he can break down the false image his father has created and see him as he was and before he can stop putting himself on trial for not living up to his father’s standards of manliness.

Like Fifth Business, The Manticore is written in the first person; It is David’s record of his analysis. His analyst asks him to prepare a “brief”—David is a successful Toronto lawyer—which consists mainly of a chronological account of David’s childhood memories. Like Fifth Business, the plot of The Manticore does not reveal a wildly unusual life, but the events of David’s life show why he is who he is. He has taken refuge from his feelings because, in effect, every time he had strong feelings he was punished for them. By denying them and creating a shell of rationality, he protects himself. One of his tasks under analysis is to recall and recognize his true emotions.

David’s analysis only goes so far in helping him recognize and accept both sides of himself, the emotional and the intellectual. His analyst helps him identify the ways in which Jungian archetypes apply to the people in his life and helps him strip the archetypes away to allow these people to be themselves, real people and not images created by David. It takes an encounter with Liesl, however, to truly put him on the path to wholeness. Liesl, whom David has met in a chance encounter with Ramsay during the Christmas holidays, takes David to a cave in the mountains where the remains of a group of primitive men have been found. She leads him further into the mountain, forcing him to crawl and wriggle through the narrow passageway to a kind of holy of holies, the place where these primitive men worshiped bears. David is uncomfortable and wants to go back to the light; darkness and bear-worship are unreasonable to him, and he wants to run back to rationality. On the way out, David becomes severely frightened and empties his bowels. Before this trip, Liesl has suggested that learning “to know oneself as fully human” must involve a kind of “rebirth”; “It’s more a reentry and return from the womb of mankind. A fuller comprehension of one’s humanity. . . . It’s not a thinker’s thing.” David’s trip back from the cave is his rebirth; the terror is something he feels deeply. It gives him the “glimmering” of his own humanity and perhaps the ability to face the “inner struggle” to become whole, which is what Liesl describes as heroic behavior.

World of Wonders presents the life of the third man affected by that stone-filled snowball. Unlike Ramsay and David’s, Paul Dempster’s life has been far from ordinary. Eisengrim (the name Paul Dempster has finally taken) is asked to tell his story as a kind of subtext for a film he is starring in about the life of the magician Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin. He tells it to Ramsay, Liesl, and the director, cinematographer, and producer of the film and begins with what he calls his descent into hell.

His particular hell is Wanless’s World of Wonders. He has stolen fifteen cents to go to the fair, and five of that buys him entry to a carnival show—the World of Wonders—where he sees a fat woman, a man who writes with his feet, and Willard the magician. After the show, Willard, on the pretext of showing Paul a trick, rapes him and then, in a panic, abducts him. Paul spends the years of his adolescence and young adulthood being sodomized by Willard and shut inside a mechanical effigy called Abdullah, used to fool carnival-goers. After Willard’s death, Paul travels to England, where he joins a theater troupe as the double of the leading man, Sir John Tresize, in a series of melodramas. After Sir John’s death and a period of odd jobs, he travels to Switzerland, where he gets a job repairing mechanical toys that have been smashed to bits by the adolescent Liesl, who suffers from a disease that has thickened the bones of her head, distorting her features. Magnus teaches her to be human again, and they later perform a magic show that makes Magnus the world’s greatest illusionist.

During most of his life, Magnus has been forced to be someone other than himself, to the point of being given names not of his own choosing. Yet these experiences have not made him a nonperson; they have made him a very great magician, who knows himself very well. Out of evil has come good. Liesl attributes this to what she calls Magnus’s “Magian World View”: “It was a sense of the unfathomable wonder of the invisible world that existed side by side with a hard recognition of the roughness and cruelty and day-to-day demands of the tangible world.”

All three of the Deptford novels have this concern with the “invisible world.” In Fifth Business, it expresses itself in Ramsay’s concern with saints; in The Manticore, it is represented by the cave in which David is at last freed to have feelings; in World of Wonders, it is this “Magian World View” that finds art in low places. Magnus has survived and prospered because he has always had an art to sustain him—conjuring with Willard, acting with the Tresizes, and fixing clocks in Switzerland. Art has allowed Magnus to remain an individual who is wholly himself.

The Cornish Trilogy

First published: The Rebel Angels, 1981; What’s Bred in the Bone, 1985; The Lyre of Orpheus, 1988

Type of work: Novels

The life of Francis Cornish and his influence after his death lay the groundwork for these novels.

The Cornish Trilogy shares many of the themes that run through the Deptford Trilogy, and it is these themes as much as the characters that link the three novels that can be read completely independently. Davies is once again concerned with finding one’s personal myth, becoming fully oneself—something that often is connected with art or pure scholarship in these novels—and in each book he again approaches the topic somewhat differently.

The Rebel Angels is the only novel in the trilogy to be written in the first person; the main narrative voice is passed back and forth between Maria Theotoky, a beautiful graduate student who narrates the sections titled “Second Paradise,” and Simon Darcourt, an Anglican priest and teacher at the university, who narrates the chapters called “The New Aubrey.” Maria’s sections focus on her love for Clement Hollier, her dissertation director, and her problems with John Parlabane, a renegade monk who teaches skeptic philosophy and was a boyhood friend of Hollier. Darcourt is one of Francis Cornish’s executors, along with Hollier and Urquhart McVarish, and his chapters attempt to provide a broader view of the university, especially of its personalities. As Darcourt and Maria’s experiences overlap, the effect of two separate narrators is not a disjointed story line but one that is dovetailed. Maria’s voice, in fact, is much like Darcourt’s, and while this is a weakness in terms of portraying Maria, it does give the novel a continuity and a unity of vision.

The main thrust of the story comes from the actions of Parlabane, who deliberately sets out to get everybody excited. He badgers Maria, poking and prying into her personal life and giving her long lectures on his philosophy; he cadges money from Darcourt and Hollier; and he plays the sycophant to Urky McVarish, the professor everyone else is united in loathing. At the end of the novel, he kills McVarish in a gruesome way and then kills himself, leaving a letter explaining the circumstances of the murder to Hollier and Maria. Parlabane also writes a long, rambling novel called Be Not Another’s, which he thrusts on Hollier, Maria, and Darcourt, asking for their opinions and then ignoring them.

Parlabane—though his book is based on his own life, though he seems to obey no rules but his own, and though he gives perfectly good advice to Maria on knowing herself—does not fully know himself. For Dunstan Ramsay, David Staunton, and Magnus Eisengrim, knowing oneself involves a balance between intellect and wonder; Parlabane has no balance and relies on his intellect, despite his claim of belief in God. Parlabane is an egotist and, as such, cannot fully know himself, for he does not really accept anything outside his own authority. Nevertheless, he is able to become one of Maria’s Rebel Angels, helping her to realize that she must accept her Gypsy background as much as her university education if she wants to be herself. Maria also calls Hollier and Darcourt her Rebel Angels, placing them in her personal mythology, for the Rebel Angels taught wisdom to men after being thrown out of heaven, and Maria believes that the three have taught her much about herself.

What’s Bred in the Bone is the strongest novel of the Cornish Trilogy, perhaps because it is the most focused. It tells the story of what is bred in the bone of Francis Cornish, the experiences and inheritances that make him who he is. It begins prior to his birth by describing the town of Blairlogie, Ontario, and the family into which he was born, and goes on to describe all the events that are important in forming Cornish’s character, from his first discovery that the world is separate from him to his death. Francis discovers that art is his talent and develops it by sketching the corpses at the undertaker’s, where his grandfather’s coachman holds a second job. At the university, he practices drawing in the manner of the Old Masters, using the silverpoint technique, and after Oxford he takes a job helping Tancred Saraceni, an art restorer. When Saraceni challenges him to paint a picture in Old Master style, mixing paints as they would have done and using a wooden panel of the right age, Francis paints “the myth of Francis Cornish.” It is a triptych of the Marriage at Cana, and every figure in it is significant for whom Francis Cornish has become.

In What’s Bred in the Bone, Davies again strongly emphasizes the importance of discovering one’s personal myth. In an early conversation with Francis, Saraceni says that modern artists “are painting the inner vision . . . but they depend only on themselves, unaided by religion or myth, and of course what most of them find within themselves is revelation only to themselves.” One needs a connection with the “world of wonders” to produce a life that is meaningful. Davies does not imply that finding one’s personal myth is easy or that knowing oneself solves all problems. Because Francis expresses himself best in Old Master style, he is effectively prevented from painting anything, for he would simply be accused of fakery. Though in his old age he seems to the world an “eccentric and crabbed spirit, there was a quality of completeness about him.” Francis dies laughing, having recognized the allegory of his own life.

The Lyre of Orpheus, which further develops several of the main characters of The Rebel Angels, pursues several threads of plot. Simon Darcourt, whose discoveries while writing a biography of Francis Cornish provided the framing fiction of What’s Bred in the Bone, is studying Francis’s art and discovering his own personal myth in the process. His plan to prove and reveal Francis as a great artist and not a skillful faker leads him, with help from Maria’s mother, to identify his personal myth as that of the Fool on the tarot cards, who is pushed by instinct, “something outside the confines of intellect and caution,” into unconventional paths. Darcourt finds this identification of his personal myth gives him “a stronger sense of who he was.”

The second major thread of plot involves the decision by the Cornish Foundation (headed by Arthur Cornish, Francis’s nephew) to produce an opera called Arthur of Britain: Or, The Magnanimous Cuckold. The opera and the characters involved in creating it take up a large part of the narrative, but the most important facet of it is the way the plot—Guenevere and Lancelot’s betrayal of Arthur—is reflected in the lives of Arthur and Maria Cornish and Geraint Powell, the director of the opera and Arthur’s friend. Maria’s infidelity with Geraint does not exactly parallel Guenevere’s, for she does not love Geraint, and in many ways Geraint’s bedding of her reflects the way Uther came to Ygraine to sire Arthur more than it does Guenevere and Lancelot’s affair. During a discussion of what plot the opera should use, Darcourt recalls Ovid saying that “the great truths of life are the wax, and all we can do is to stamp it with different forms. . . . If we are true to the great myth, we can give it what form we choose. The myth—the wax—does not change.” Arthur and Maria must learn how to be true to “the great myth” in order for their marriage to be enriched rather than destroyed, and that lesson is expressed in the loving charity of Sir Walter Scott’s lines used in the opera’s libretto:

It is the secret sympathy,The silver link, the silken tie,Which heart to heart, and mind to mind,In body and in soul can bind.

Murther and Walking Spirits

First published: 1991

Type of work: Novel

Newspaper editor Connor Gilmartin is murdered and spends his afterlife attending a film festival with his murderer; the films show him his family history since the colonial period.

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 forced to attend a series of films with him. However, the “films” the protagonist is shown are for himself alone. While the festival audience watches The Spirit of ’76, Gilmartin’s private film opens in New York in 1774 and follows his Loyalist great-great-great-great-grandmother’s brave exodus to Canada after the American Revolution.

The third part of the novel is set in Wales. While Going views Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors, the ghost narrator sees a film about five generations of his Welsh Gilmartin ancestors, the last of whom, because of financial setbacks, immigrate to North America.

While Going sees a film called The Master Builder, the invisible narrator watches the unfolding of the next chapter of his family history from the perspective of his grandfather Gil and Gil’s unstable father-in-law, the builder and opium addict William McOmish. Gil’s marriage to Malvina McComish represents the merging of the Dutch and Welsh family lines. Scenes from a Marriage depicts the youth of Gilmartin’s father, Brochwel, who will one day be a university professor specializing in the poetry of Robert Browning; appropriately, this section of the novel uses interior monologues from multiple points of view, providing Gilmartin and the reader with a variety of viewpoints that require some assembly in order to understand the situation.

The novel concludes with the ghost revisiting those who have survived him: his wife, who is parlaying her bereavement into a book deal, and his murderer, who is taking over his victim’s job even as he is consumed with grief over his crime. The book concludes with a conversation between the ghost and his anima, a Jungian term for the feminine, true inner self of a man. While there is no absolution as such for the murderer Going or the unfaithful wife Esme, the novel concludes, in conversation between self and soul, with acceptance.

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-hour free trial

Robertson Davies Drama Analysis


Davies, (William) Robertson (Vol. 25)

Explore Study Guides