Estimated read time: 4 min read

One Sentence Summary

A teacher in a small Canadian town struggles with loneliness and the desire for independence.


"A Jest of God" is a compelling novel by Margaret Laurence that delves into the complexities of a woman's inner life. The story is set in the small town of Manawaka, Manitoba, and follows the protagonist, Rachel Cameron, as she grapples with her own desires, fears, and the societal expectations placed upon her. Through Rachel's internal monologues and interactions with others, the novel explores themes of loneliness, self-discovery, and the search for meaning in an often stifling environment.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview and Setting

The story is set in the 1950s in the fictional town of Manawaka, a close-knit community where everyone knows everyone else's business. Rachel Cameron, a 34-year-old schoolteacher, lives with her overbearing mother and longs for something more from life. She is haunted by her failed love affair with a married man and feels trapped in a life she did not choose.

Main Characters

Rachel CameronThe protagonist, a 34-year-old schoolteacher.
Mrs. CameronRachel's overbearing mother who is critical of her.
Nick KazlikA young man who shows interest in Rachel.
Calla MatthewsRachel's friend and confidante.

Summary of Different Story Points Over Chapters

Chapter 1-3

Rachel navigates her mundane life as a schoolteacher and her strained relationship with her mother. She reflects on her past failed romance and her longing for something more fulfilling.

Chapter 4-6

Rachel's internal struggles intensify as she grapples with feelings of loneliness and the desire for a deeper connection. She begins to entertain the idea of a relationship with Nick Kazlik, a young man from the town.

Chapter 7-9

Rachel's interactions with Nick and her friend Calla Matthews bring to light her inner conflicts and her fear of vulnerability. She continues to struggle with her own desires and societal expectations.

Chapter 10-12

As Rachel's relationship with Nick develops, she confronts her own insecurities and fears of intimacy. She also grapples with the weight of her mother's expectations and the limitations imposed by her small-town life.

Chapter 13-15

Rachel's internal turmoil reaches a crescendo as she is forced to confront her own longing for love and the limitations she places on herself. She experiences moments of clarity and introspection, leading to a potential shift in her perspective.

Main Events

  • Rachel's daily routine as a schoolteacher
  • Her interactions with her mother and her friend Calla
  • The development of her relationship with Nick
  • Rachel's internal monologues and reflections on her past
  • Moments of introspection and self-discovery

Themes and Insights


  1. Loneliness and Isolation: Rachel's inner struggles with loneliness and a longing for connection are central to the narrative.
  2. Self-Discovery: The novel delves into Rachel's journey of self-discovery and her attempts to find meaning in her life.
  3. Societal Expectations: The societal pressures and expectations placed upon Rachel as a single woman in a small town are prominent themes.


  • The novel offers profound insights into the internal conflicts and desires of its protagonist, shedding light on the universal experience of grappling with one's own identity and purpose.
  • It also provides a poignant commentary on the constraints placed upon women in the 1950s and the impact of societal expectations on individual freedom and fulfillment.

Reader's Takeaway

"A Jest of God" offers readers a deeply introspective and emotionally resonant narrative that delves into the complexities of human emotion and the search for meaning. Through Rachel's journey, readers are offered a poignant reflection on the universal themes of loneliness, self-discovery, and the pursuit of personal fulfillment.


In "A Jest of God," Margaret Laurence presents a compelling exploration of the human psyche, particularly through the lens of its protagonist, Rachel Cameron. The novel's vivid portrayal of small-town life and its nuanced depiction of Rachel's internal struggles make it a timeless and thought-provoking read. As readers follow Rachel's journey of self-discovery and introspection, they are invited to contemplate their own desires, fears, and the societal expectations that shape their lives.

A Jest of God FAQ

  1. What is the genre of A Jest of God?

    A Jest of God is a novel that falls into the category of literary fiction and women's fiction.

  2. Who is the author of A Jest of God?

    A Jest of God was written by Margaret Laurence, a renowned Canadian author.

  3. What is the main theme of A Jest of God?

    The main themes of A Jest of God include loneliness, self-discovery, and the struggles of a small-town woman in the mid-20th century.

  4. Is A Jest of God part of a series?

    Yes, A Jest of God is the second book in Margaret Laurence's acclaimed Manawaka series, which is set in the fictional town of Manawaka, Canada.

  5. What is the setting of A Jest of God?

    A Jest of God is set in a small Canadian town, providing a vivid portrayal of the rural landscape and community life.