Skip to content
The Diviners: A Captivating Two-Act Play by Margaret Laurence – A Summary

The Diviners: A Captivating Two-Act Play by Margaret Laurence – A Summary

“The Diviners” is a two-act play written by Canadian author Margaret Laurence, known for her acclaimed novels such as “The Stone Angel” and “A Jest of God.” Set in a small prairie town in the 1930s, the play explores themes of faith, friendship, and the power of storytelling. This article provides a summary of the plot and characters of “The Diviners,” as well as an analysis of its themes and significance.

Background Information

Margaret Laurence was a Canadian novelist and short story writer, born in Neepawa, Manitoba in 1926. She is best known for her novels, including “The Stone Angel” and “A Jest of God,” which won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction in 1966. Laurence was also a passionate advocate for social justice and environmental issues, and her writing often reflects these concerns. “The Diviners” was first published in 1974 and was later adapted into a two-act play. The play explores themes of identity, community, and the power of storytelling, set against the backdrop of rural Manitoba during the Great Depression.

Plot Summary

The Diviners is a two-act play by Margaret Laurence that tells the story of Morag Gunn, a young woman who grows up in a small town in Manitoba, Canada. The play explores themes of identity, family, and the search for meaning in life. Morag’s father, Pique, is a charismatic and unconventional man who instills in her a love of storytelling and a sense of wonder about the world. However, Pique’s unconventional ways also lead to his untimely death, leaving Morag to navigate the complexities of life on her own. As she grows up, Morag struggles to find her place in the world and to come to terms with her own identity. Along the way, she encounters a cast of colorful characters, including her mother, Christie, her best friend, Jules, and a mysterious man named Gavin Stevens. Through it all, Morag remains determined to find her own path in life and to discover the truth about herself and her family. The Diviners is a captivating and thought-provoking play that will leave audiences spellbound from beginning to end.

Main Characters

The Diviners by Margaret Laurence is a captivating two-act play that revolves around the lives of its main characters. The play is set in the fictional town of Zion, Manitoba, during the Great Depression. The two main characters of the play are Morag Gunn and Jules Tonnerre. Morag is a young woman who is struggling to come to terms with her past and her identity. She is haunted by the memory of her mother, who died when she was young, and her father, who was emotionally distant. Jules, on the other hand, is a man who has come to Zion to escape his past. He is a former priest who has lost his faith and is now working as a farmer. The two characters meet and form a deep connection, as they both try to find meaning in their lives. The play also features a number of other memorable characters, including Morag’s father, Christie, and her best friend, Rachel. Each character brings their own unique perspective to the story, and together they create a rich and complex world that is both engaging and thought-provoking.


The setting of “The Diviners” is a small town in rural Manitoba during the Great Depression. The town is called Zion and it is a place where everyone knows everyone else’s business. The town is struggling to survive as the Depression has hit hard and many people are out of work. The town is also dealing with a drought that has lasted for years, making it difficult for farmers to grow crops and for people to find water. The setting of the play is important as it sets the tone for the story and helps to create a sense of isolation and desperation that the characters feel. The town of Zion is a place where people are struggling to survive and where hope is in short supply.


One of the central themes of “The Diviners” is the search for identity. The play explores the struggles of its characters to understand who they are and where they belong in the world. This theme is particularly evident in the character of Morag Gunn, a writer who is haunted by her past and her mixed heritage. Through her journey, Laurence highlights the complexities of identity and the ways in which it can shape our lives. Another important theme in the play is the power of storytelling. Laurence uses the character of Morag to explore the role of the writer in society and the ways in which stories can help us make sense of our experiences. Overall, “The Diviners” is a thought-provoking play that explores important themes and raises important questions about identity, storytelling, and the human experience.

Symbols and Motifs

One of the most prominent symbols in Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners is water. Water is a recurring motif throughout the play, representing both life and death. For example, the river that runs through the town of Zion represents the life force of the community, providing sustenance and nourishment. However, it also serves as a reminder of the dangers of water, as several characters have lost loved ones to drowning. The motif of water is also tied to the character of Morag, who is haunted by the memory of her mother’s death by drowning. Overall, the use of water as a symbol in The Diviners adds depth and complexity to the themes of life, death, and the power of nature.

Writing Style

Margaret Laurence’s writing style in “The Diviners” is both captivating and poetic. She uses vivid imagery and descriptive language to transport the reader to the small town of Manawaka, where the play is set. Laurence’s use of dialogue is also noteworthy, as she creates distinct voices for each character, making them feel like real people with unique personalities and perspectives. Additionally, her use of symbolism adds depth and meaning to the story, making it a rich and thought-provoking read. Overall, Laurence’s writing style in “The Diviners” is a testament to her skill as a writer and her ability to create a compelling and memorable story.

Critical Reception

The Diviners has received critical acclaim since its first publication in 1974. Margaret Laurence’s play has been praised for its vivid portrayal of rural Canadian life and its exploration of themes such as faith, loss, and redemption. Critics have also noted the play’s strong character development and its ability to capture the complexities of human relationships. The Diviners has been performed in numerous theaters across Canada and the United States, and it continues to be a beloved work of Canadian literature.


One of the most notable adaptations of Margaret Laurence’s “The Diviners” is the 1993 made-for-television movie directed by Anne Wheeler. Starring Tom Jackson and Sonja Smits, the film received critical acclaim and won several awards, including a Gemini Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role. The adaptation stays true to the themes and characters of the play, while also adding some new elements to the story. Another adaptation of “The Diviners” is a stage production by the Canadian theatre company Soulpepper, which premiered in 2019. Directed by Miles Potter, the production received positive reviews for its powerful performances and stunning visuals. These adaptations are a testament to the enduring appeal of Laurence’s work and the impact it continues to have on audiences today.

Significance and Legacy

The Diviners is a play that has left a lasting impact on Canadian literature and theatre. Margaret Laurence’s work has been celebrated for its exploration of themes such as identity, community, and spirituality. The play’s portrayal of rural life in Canada during the Great Depression has resonated with audiences and critics alike. The Diviners has been performed across Canada and internationally, and has been adapted into a film and a radio play. Its legacy continues to inspire new generations of writers and theatre practitioners.

Analysis of Act One

Act One of Margaret Laurence’s play, The Diviners, sets the stage for the rest of the story. The audience is introduced to the characters and the small town of Zion, where the play takes place. The opening scene, where Morag and Piquette are introduced, sets the tone for the play. The two characters are from different backgrounds and have different experiences, but they share a common bond of being outsiders in the town. This theme of outsiders is prevalent throughout Act One, as we see characters like C.C. Joad and the McLeod family struggle to fit in with the rest of the town.

The play also explores the theme of religion and spirituality, as we see characters like Reverend Storey and the diviner, Abe, grapple with their beliefs. The tension between religion and spirituality is highlighted in the scene where Morag and Piquette attend church, but are unable to connect with the sermon.

Overall, Act One sets up the conflicts and themes that will be explored in the rest of the play. The characters are complex and multi-dimensional, and the small town setting adds to the sense of isolation and tension. The Diviners is a captivating play that explores the human experience in a unique and thought-provoking way.

Analysis of Act Two

Act Two of Margaret Laurence’s play, The Diviners, delves deeper into the characters’ pasts and their relationships with each other. The tension between Morag and Piquette continues to escalate, as Morag struggles to come to terms with her own identity and the role she played in Piquette’s traumatic experience. The arrival of Christie Logan, a former flame of Morag’s father, adds another layer of complexity to the story. As the characters confront their pasts and their fears, the audience is drawn further into the emotional turmoil of the play. The themes of identity, trauma, and the power of storytelling are explored in greater depth in Act Two, making for a captivating and thought-provoking theatrical experience.

Character Development

In “The Diviners,” Margaret Laurence masterfully crafts complex and dynamic characters that undergo significant development throughout the play. The protagonist, Morag Gunn, is a prime example of this. At the beginning of the play, Morag is a fiercely independent and self-reliant woman who has built a successful career as a writer. However, as the story progresses, we see her struggle with her own insecurities and vulnerabilities, particularly in her relationships with men. Through her interactions with characters like Jules Tonnerre and Christie Logan, Morag learns to confront her fears and open herself up to love and intimacy. By the end of the play, she has undergone a profound transformation, emerging as a more compassionate and self-aware individual. This journey of self-discovery is just one of the many examples of the rich character development that makes “The Diviners” such a captivating and emotionally resonant work of art.

Conflict and Resolution

In “The Diviners,” conflict arises between Morag and her mother, Christie, as they struggle to understand and connect with each other. Morag, a writer, feels disconnected from her rural upbringing and resents her mother for not understanding her artistic pursuits. Christie, on the other hand, feels abandoned by Morag and struggles to express her love for her daughter.

The resolution of this conflict comes through a series of conversations and revelations between the two women. Morag learns to appreciate her mother’s strength and resilience, while Christie comes to understand and support Morag’s creative endeavors. Ultimately, they are able to reconcile and find a deeper understanding of each other.

This conflict and resolution is just one example of the complex relationships and themes explored in “The Diviners.” Through Laurence’s masterful storytelling, the play offers a poignant and thought-provoking exploration of family, identity, and the search for meaning in life.

Symbolism of Water

Water is a recurring symbol in Margaret Laurence’s play, The Diviners. It represents both life and death, as well as the power and unpredictability of nature. The characters in the play are deeply connected to water, whether it be through their livelihoods as farmers or their personal experiences with drowning. The river that runs through the town is a constant presence, and its changing levels reflect the emotional states of the characters. Water is also used as a metaphor for the spiritual and emotional cleansing that the characters undergo throughout the play. Overall, the symbolism of water in The Diviners adds depth and complexity to the themes of the play, and highlights Laurence’s skill as a writer.

Gender Roles

In “The Diviners,” Margaret Laurence explores the traditional gender roles of rural Canadian society in the 1930s. The play depicts women as homemakers and caretakers, while men are expected to be the breadwinners and protectors of their families. However, Laurence also challenges these gender roles through the character of Morag Gunn, a strong-willed and independent woman who defies societal expectations. Morag’s character serves as a reminder that gender roles are not fixed and can be challenged and redefined.

Religion and Spirituality

The Diviners, a two-act play by Margaret Laurence, explores the themes of religion and spirituality through the characters’ beliefs and experiences. The play is set in a small town in rural Canada during the Great Depression, where the townspeople are struggling to make ends meet. The protagonist, Morag Gunn, is a young woman who has been raised by her father, a former preacher who has lost his faith. Morag is searching for meaning in her life and turns to various forms of spirituality, including astrology and tarot cards.

The play also features a character named Reverend Turnbull, who represents traditional Christianity. He is a strict and judgmental man who believes that the townspeople are sinners and must repent in order to be saved. However, his beliefs are challenged when he meets Morag and begins to question his own faith.

Through the characters’ experiences, The Diviners explores the complex relationship between religion and spirituality. It raises questions about the role of organized religion in people’s lives and the importance of personal beliefs and experiences. The play also highlights the ways in which spirituality can provide comfort and guidance during difficult times.

Overall, The Diviners is a thought-provoking exploration of religion and spirituality that will leave audiences reflecting on their own beliefs and experiences.

Impact on Canadian Literature

Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners has had a significant impact on Canadian literature since its publication in 1974. The play explores themes of identity, community, and the search for meaning in life, all of which are central to Canadian literature. The characters in the play are complex and multi-dimensional, reflecting the diversity of Canadian society. The play also addresses issues of gender and power, which were not often explored in Canadian literature at the time. The Diviners has been widely studied and analyzed in Canadian literature courses, and it has inspired many other Canadian writers to explore similar themes in their own work. Overall, The Diviners has had a lasting impact on Canadian literature and continues to be an important work in the canon of Canadian literature.