Repressing Words In A Jest Of God

Essay, Research Paper

The human being has an advantage over other animals: its ability to communicate. Having two ears to listen and a tongue to speak has made it possible for humans understand one another and to be able to express their feelings. This is a blessing that most people are able to take advantage of, Rachel Cameron is not one of those lucky people. She is not able to use her tongue freely and speak her mind. She harbours many unspoken words and keeps her emotions to herself, never sharing them with another person. Unspoken words not only cause misunderstanding and confusion but they also do not allow for self-expression. Rachel s true feelings remain largely in the unconscious, emerging only as fantasy and inner voices. This causes Rachel to become trapped in her inner self. She never allows her true thoughts to be heard by the outside world, by her friends and by her family for fear of being unaccepted. Rachel is afraid, she keeps silent for fear of being unaccepted by society and by her mother; it is through her love affair with Nick that she learns to let go and to do what she wants to.Rachel is a women who is afraid to say what is on her mind and to speak the truth for fear that she might upset someone or that her words might not be proper. This action is not a positive one. It makes Rachel nervous, self-critical, and incapable of reaching out to another human being. Her silences result from her self-judgement my own voice sounds false to my ears (Laurence 1988, 11). This is actually a large part of her problem, she resists acknowledging her desires and her true thoughts, and therefore she remains blocked. When she approaches recognition of her “darker,” “shadow” selves, she retreats, and attempts to stop her own thoughts. If she fears she is entertaining morbid thoughts or eccentric fantasies, she scolds herself: “This must stop. It isn’t good for me. Whenever I find myself thinking in a brooding way, I must simply turn it off and think of something else” (8). She retreats from her sexual fantasies: “Rachel, stop it. You’re only getting yourself worked up for nothing. It’s bad for you” (121). Rachel assumes that sexual fantasies are bad. After one such fantasy she thinks, I didn t. I didn t. It was only to be able to sleep. The shadow prince. Am I unbalanced? Or only laughable? That s worse, much worse (25). Being unaccepted by her society scares Rachel more than being crazy. Society is a major contributor to the silences and unspoken words in Rachel s life. The pressures that are placed on her because she is a woman are great. Women are taught to act proper, ladylike, sensible (24) and not to be too serious (89). They are taught their role in society from an early age. In Manawaka, there is a Scottish Christian background that teaches repression of true feelings and emotions to put on a good appearance. Rachel always worries about what other people will think of her, the looks that she will receive from others, I recall myself walking back up the hill road into Manawaka that day, wondering if people would see something in my face (86). She acts in a reserved manner because of this fear. When Cassie Stewart became pregnant, she is sent away and hidden from the entire town. When she returns with twins, the gossip is horrendous. I can t fathom the thoughtlessness of some girls. She might consider her mother and how it ll be for her (64) says May regarding the incident. Yet May is only concerned about what other people will say about her mother instead of Cassie s emotions. That is how the town of Manawaka is, looking at other for disapproval. Rachel is extremely afraid of people talking about her.

Just like Rachel is afraid of the people in the town, she is even more afraid of her own mother. May Cameron is a large influence on Rachel. She is a controlling, martyr who feels the need to make Rachel feel guilty for doing such insignificant things as going for a walk. For over thirty years, Rachel has kept her mouth shut and not allowed herself to speak her mind, to say what she is thinking and to do exactly as she pleases because she is afraid of what her mother might think. When words are not spoken, they harbour resentment and fuel frustration between people. Although these two women have lived together for over thirty years, they can not communicate effectively with each other. After a brief discussion that does not lead to any understanding, only guilt, Rachel s unspoken words are this is our conversation. This is the way we talk, the way we go on (85). This implies that it goes on but does not go anywhere in particular. May is always commenting on what is nice (146) and not nice to say but she does not seem to care what Rachel actually wants. May wants to control Rachel and Rachel allows her to do so because of her fear of having a scene (85). During her affair with Nick, Rachel begins to do things out of the ordinary and she enjoys the feeling. Rachel beings to go out when she wants to. She realises that her mother is actually dependent upon her and that May must do as she says. Rachel begins to assert herself and begins to voice her actual thoughts. She stops caring about what her mother thinks and instead finds humour in May s disapproval: while her disapproval turns to concern over the gaiety of my madness, I begin to laugh, to laugh and laugh, and it goes on (146). With Nick, Rachel learns that communication is important because without it people do not know one another, all Nick knew of Rachel was what he [could have] guessed, whatever that may be (160). By the end of the novel, Rachel actually grows up and begins to do what she wants to. She tells her mother she is leaving Manawaka and asserts herself to the situation, for the first time Rachel voices her thoughts and takes action. The silences and inner voices of Rachel Cameron are the only way that the reader is able to understand the character s actual thoughts. A timid coward, Rachel keeps all her real thoughts, opinions and desires to herself throughout most of the novel. It is through Nick that she begins to see the benefit of opening up to another human being and to ask questions instead of assuming and keeping quite. Fortunately, almost in spite of herself, she comes to acknowledge her desires, her goals in life and to face the implications of sexual passion. When Rachel stops fearing society, her mother and her self-judgement she asserts herself and starts a real life, a life of hope.

Laurence, Margaret. A Jest of God. Toronto: New Canadian Library, 1988.


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