Only a handful of authors have been as successful as Margaret Atwood. She was born November 18, 1939 in Ottawa, Canada. As a poet and novelist she's won over 55 awards including the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Governor General's Award and the Booker Prize five times (“Margaret Atwood”). Though she's written over 40 novels and collections of poetry, her most notable works consist of The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake, The Edible Woman, The Blind Assassin, and The Year of the Flood. She writes with lack of character's emotion and impassively with much description but still involved in the stories. Atwood keeps recurring themes of female protagonists, oppression, and the nature in many of her works (“Sparknote”). Her literature style changes as the major factors of her life change, including her college influences, her father's scientist studies and experiences, her Canadian heritage, art, human rights and her marital statuses.
Atwood graduated from Victoria College, the University of Toronto, and Radcliffe College and Harvard University. Radcliffe College, a women's college at the time, was known for its prestigious liberal arts courses. Influenced by this female's only college, in several of Atwood's books the female protagonist is a representation of "every women" who is victimized and minimized by gender and politics (“Margaret Atwood a Biography”). As a matter of fact, almost every publication by Atwood features a female as the main character. For example, a novel, The Edible Woman, follows Marian McAlphin and highlights the drama and emotions of her relationship with her lawyer fiance while she continues to see another man and struggle to rise above the male-dominated world (“Introduction”). The release of The Edible Woman, in 1969, also coincided with the second wave of the feminist movement. This feminism movement in the early stages of her writing, actually affected her literature in many ways throughout her career as she is currently still a feminist and still writing new novels and poems with a majority of female protagonists. In her poem “This is a Photograph of Me,” Atwood utilizes several aspects of nature observed in a photograph to symbolize the dominance of men over women in our oppressive society. For example in lines 11-12, the small hill that “ought to be a gentle / slope”, represents the challenges women have in overcoming female prejudice (). Alias Grace, Atwood's first historical fiction is about a woman who is convicted of crime but has no memory of it. The Handmaid's Tale, a futuristic novel where women are subjected to the lowest of all human rights, is possibly the best portrayal of Atwood's feminism beliefs. Offred's purpose as a woman is to be a breeder, housekeeper, mistress, or housewife; if a woman rebels then she will be expelled (“Feminism”). Offred thinks, "I avoid looking down at my body, not so much because it's shameful or immodest but because I don't want to see it. I don't want to look at something that determines me so completely” (63). Earlier in the novel, Offred thought "a distorted shadow, a parody of something, some fairytale figure in a red cloak” about herself (18). This shows the reader exactly how strongly Atwood feels about the patriarchy of current societies and how this could effect women in the future. Atwood portrays the Commander's House, the head of the household where Offred stays, "late Victorian" (18). Decor is used as a major symbolism aspect in The Handmaid's Tale. Here, the decor links the Handmaids to the Victorian cult of domesticity, the notion of "separate spheres" that relegated women to the home and reserved professional and public spaces for men alone (“Feminism”).
As an activist for a plethora of topics including freedom of speech and expression, Atwood hints her despise for such oppression by having her characters suffer though mental pain and agony. In The Handmaid's Tale, Atwood's most famed novel, Offred thinks, “nor does rape cover it:...
Cited: Atwood, Margaret. “This is a Photograph of Me”. The Circle Game. House of Anasi Fresh, 1966.
---.Bluebeard 's Egg. New York: A Bantham Trade Paperback, 1983.
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“Cat 's Eye”. Enotes. 20 Apr. 2014.
SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Margaret Atwood’s Poetry.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2006. Web. 9 Apr. 2014.
“Margaret Atwood a Biography”. Angelfire.com. 20 Apr. 2014.
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