The short story “Hairball” by Margaret Atwood is about a middle-aged woman named Kat. Overtime Kat has created a seemingly strong and impenetrable exterior, but as her life begins to disintegrate readers start to realize that the strong exterior is just a façade created to protect her weak and fragile interior. Kat’s façade starts to unravel at the point she undergoes significant personal losses; in fact, the losses go so far as to include her own identity or lack thereof.
“Hairball” opens on the “day of unluck, month of the dead” (33) with a benign tumor that’s removed from the narrator Kat. By having her surgery on such an unlucky day, it seems to have changed her life, for she loses her lover, her job, her child and herself. The tumor is defined as having red hair, little bones, phalanges, and “five perfectly formed teeth” (34) and would at times seem to speak to her “without words” (46). When describing herself at the point the story starts, Kat’s “face had lost its roundness” (37), although her perfect North American dentistry teeth had remained. Here is a comparison between herself and “her thwarted child” (46). Kat is just a product of what society needs her to be, as the “hairball” is just a product of her, with no real feelings or definition to its person.
Kat had moved to England to start her career and had to deal with burst pipes in the building that resulted from the cold. She believed that “nobody thought of putting in real pipes, ones that would not burst next time” (37), just like Kat wouldn’t put in herself real emotions. England “always got that cold” (37), and “the pipes always burst” (37). This is a symbol of Kat herself. Kat went through many transformations during her lifetime, from a “romanticized” (36) Katherine, to Kathy, Kath, Kat, then to simply K and eventually resorting to no name, each one as seemingly cold and imperfect as the former, as she believed her body “might choose to do or produce” (34) on its own. Each time something...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document