New Perspectives on Margaret Laurence: Poetic Narrative, Multiculturalism, and Feminism

By Greta M. K. McCormick Coger | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Stacey Cameron MacAindra: The Fire This Time

Lyall H. Powers


"GOD GAVE NOAH THE RAINBOW SIGN, NO MORE WATER, THE FIRE NEXT TIME!" (James Baldwin, Epigraph, The Fire Next Time)

One of several important similarities between the Yoknapatawpha fiction of William Faulkner and the Manawaka fiction of Margaret Laurence is the central idea that a healthy life depends on the frank recognition of mutability and human mortality--facing the fact of death. 1 That idea enjoys distinct prominence in the middle book of the Manawaka Saga, The Fire-Dwellers ( 1969): it is specifically announced by both the title and the recurring nursery rhyme that opens the novel-- "Ladybird . . . Fly away home, / Your house is on fire, / Your children are gone." The idea is developed dramatically in the career of Stacey Cameron MacAindra, with corollary development in that of her husband, Mac. Stacey's obsessive concern with her own aging and with all the signs--especially the physical--of her lost youth, her association with Buckle Fennick, and her brief affair with Luke Venturi all express her attempt to deny the twin facts of mutability and mortality. The novel equates denial of death with denial of life. Stacey's denial is exhibited also in her excessive concern to protect her children, her attempt to anticipate and thwart the stroke of death. Of principal importance in her maternal anxiety is her relationship with her daughter Katie, a relationship that echoes that between Rachel and Mrs. Cameron in A Jest of God and anticipates that between Morag and Pique in The Diviners. The constant threat in a world on fire--as Stacey's TV set, the EVER- OPEN EYE, persistently reminds her--is real enough, to be sure; what is at issue here, however, is Stacey's attitude. Technically and thematically The Fire-Dwellers is her story.

The corollary career of Mac involves his association with Richalife products-- including the necessary "rejuvenating" brush-cut hair style--his little affair with Delores Appleton, his long friendship with Buckle Fennick, and his reticence with Stacey.

-29-

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