"Our commonsense explanations of the world and ourselves are problematised by Atwood through her novel. Nothing is quite as it seems, when we look at anything (in a mirror, in the past, at others) it is refracted as if through water." Discuss the ideas and issues in the novel in relation to this statement, paying particular attention to the techniques and narrative elements used to show this.
Our commonsense explanations of the world are based on the absolutes in our lives. Ways of seeing have been socially constructed embedded with values and attitudes that influence our behaviour and view of the world and ourselves. Reality cannot be captured and is interpreted differently by every individual as if refracted through water. Cat's Eye is a work of influential English by author Margaret Atwood. The novel's central area of exploration is of different versions of reality, and the accuracy and truthfulness of our own visions of how we see the world and ourselves. These visions are problematised by Atwood, as she uses various techniques that allow her to discretely proffer her idea of 'nothing is quite as it seems' to position the audience. This results in our own endorsement of these beliefs, and leads us to question our own lives as just a version of reality, with a sense of disillusionment. Our world and our own lives are challenged by Atwood's novel, as in questioning the idea of no absolutes and constants in our lives, we also begin to question the other constants in our society such as religion being just another version of reality and not an absolute. This distresses many people and problematises our lives. Measurable, knowable, constant, and absolute qualities of life provide security in our beliefs and understanding of the world and our place within it. Absolutes help us make sense of the world, and provide a connection to the world and our own inner selves generating a sense of belonging. Atwood challenges the concept of absolutes, fixed/knowable identities, and common truths through various techniques. She uses narrative elements to proffer her ideas, such as autobiographical writing to encourage us to question the one and only version of reality that is being told (through Elaine and her life). Imagery/symbolism and intertextuality are recurring techniques, for example her repetitive use reflective surfaces such a glass, water and mirrors are all symbols used to question reflection, and how we see ourselves; is what we see what we get? These techniques are used in order to provoke self-doubt and insecurity, to unsettle and complicate the way we see ourselves and our world, through the provocative questions that it asks of us. Cat's eye challenges the naturalized and socially constructed views and encourages the reader to question the dominant views of the world and themselves.
Refraction is the distortment of light, as it travels, it's broken-up as it changes and moves through different mediums. Atwood uses refraction as a symbol representing the key belief that our vision of life and ourselves is refracted, broken up, distorted, and that as a result our perceptions aren't always accurate. Atwood uses Elaine's second encounter at the bridge to imply that our views, especially on other people are refracted, and not necessarily as they seem to be. Cordelia is seen to effect Elaine the most significantly, and it is not until the end of the book, when Elaine is finally coming back to herself (the bridge) that Elaine realises that Cordelia was not what she seemed to be.
"There is the same shame, the sick feeling in my body, the same knowledge of my own wrongness, awkwardness, weakness; the same wish to be loved; the same loneliness; the same fear. But these are not my own emotions anymore. They are Cordelia's; as they always were."It is only at the end of Elaine's life when she realizes that her emotions that traumatized her childhood (and adult life) were in fact Cordelia's, who in order to escape them and cope...
Bibliography: Atwood, Margaret, Cat 's Eye, Penguin, Montreal 1968
Please join StudyMode to read the full document