The Black and White World of Atwood's Surfacing Essay

The Black and White World of Atwood's Surfacing Essay

Length: 2209 words (6.3 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

The Black and White World of Atwood's Surfacing    


   Many people elect to view the world and life as a series of paired opposites-love and hate, birth and death, right and wrong. As Anne Lamott said, "it is so much easier to embrace absolutes than to suffer reality" (104). This quote summarizes the thoughts of the narrator in Margaret Atwood's novel Surfacing.  The narrator, whose name is never mentioned, must confront a past that she has tried desperately to ignore (7). She sees herself and the world around her as either the innocent victim or the victimizer, never both. Atwoods use of opposing characters and themes throughout the novel serves to support the narrators view of life as "black and white," things that she can categorize as either a victim or a victimizer. Critical moments in the novel work to reverse the assumed roles and, for the narrator, only after her submerged memory has surfaced can she begin to see the possibility of life as more than a binary reality.

Anna plays the role of the classic submissive female married to David's classic chauvinist male. "Wanting to remain attractive to her husband, Anna attempts to conform to the eroticized and commodified images of women promulgated in the mass culture" (Bouson 44). Although the novel is set during the 1970"s, the decade of one of the great feminist movements in our history, Anna remains a woman who maintains herself for her husbands benefit. In a critical scene in the novel, the narrator sees Anna applying makeup. When she (the narrator) tells her that it is unnecessary where they are Anna says "He doesn't like to see me without it," and then quickly adds, "He doesn't know I wear it" (41).

To the narrator, Anna is a victim. Although she allows he...


... middle of paper ...


...l E. "Margaret Atwood and the Poetics of Duplicity." The Art of Margaret Atwood. Ed. Arnold E. Davidson. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 1981.

 

Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird. New York: Doubleday. 1994.

 

Lecker, Robert. "Janus Through the Looking Glass: Atwood's First Three Novels." The Art of Margaret Atwood. Ed. Arnold E. Davidson. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 1981.

 

Shepherd, Valerie. "Narrative Survival: The power of personal narration, discussed through the personal story-telling of fictional characters, particularly those created by Margaret Atwood." Language and Communication. 15.4 (1995): 355-373.

 

Most of the novels characters can be classified as either a victim or a victimizer, but none more so than David and Anna. A classic submissive female, Anna maintains her marriage to David, the classic chauvinist male.

 

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on Margaret Atwood 's The Handmaid 's Tale

- Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale is a story heavily influenced by the Bible and has many biblical themes that are used to prove Atwood’s belief in balance. The novel is set in the Republic of Gilead which was formerly the United States. The story is told through the perspective of a handmaid named Offred and begins when she is placed at her third assignment as a housemaid. Offred describes her society as a fundamentalist theocracy where the Christian God is seen as the divine Ruler over the Republic of Gilead....   [tags: The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood]

Powerful Essays
1054 words (3 pages)

Representation of Colors in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Essay

- Representation of Colors in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale Imagine if you can, living in a world that tells you what you are to wear, where to live, as well as your position and value to society. In Margaret Atwood's novel, The Handmaid's Tale, she shows us the Republic of Gilead does just that. Offred, the main character, is a Handmaid, whose usefulness is her ovaries. Handmaids are ordered to live in a house with a Commander, his wife, and once a month attempt to become pregnant by the Commander....   [tags: Handmaid's Tale Atwood Margaret Essays]

Powerful Essays
1784 words (5.1 pages)

Essay on Medicine, By Lu Xun And Death By Landscape By Margaret Atwood

- The short stories “Medicine” by Lu Xun and “Death by Landscape” by Margaret Atwood both have a mysterious forces in the stories. This means that there are similar forces in both, however, the forces in each do have different effects. These invisible powers will either give someone a sense of hope or a sense of fear. Even though these effects could be good or bad, the forces impact one another and some forces give strong emotions towards someone. While one may see a force having a positive effect another may see the side of it being a negative effect....   [tags: Anxiety, Fear, Emotion, Paranoia]

Powerful Essays
778 words (2.2 pages)

Atwood and Lahiri's Death by Landscape and Sexy: Girls Finding Their Inner Woman

- “Death by Landscape” and “Sexy”, two short stories written by two very different authors; although different they share some similarities. “Death by Landscape’s” Margret Atwood is a Canadian writer who began writing in the early 1950s during her teens. Atwood published “Death by Landscape” in 1990 during the time in which the female faculty of Victoria College vocalized about feminism, Atwood since has portrayed her non-male characters with female power and promise in a man's world. The author of “Sexy” is Jhumpa Lahiri an Indian woman whose first literary collection debuted in 1999....   [tags: feminism, love, culture]

Powerful Essays
609 words (1.7 pages)

Two Different Prospects for the Future: Ray Bradbury's and Margaret Atwood

- ... Mildred and her other friends chastise Montag for doing such a thing. Montag's boss and wife have both scorned him for taking an interest in literature, as they both believe in this society where superficiality and complacency reign. As he begins to express dissent, he is made into an outcast and forced to retreat from his society; a similar fate to his curious acquaintance Clarisse McClellan who, because of her inquisitive and “queer” nature, was being monitored by authorities (Bradbury 57)....   [tags: Fahrenheit 451 and The Handmaid's Tale]

Powerful Essays
1663 words (4.8 pages)

Dionne Brand's Blues Spiritual for Mammy Prater and Margaret Atwood's This Is a Photograph of Me

- ... Another significant concept recorded in the poem is the representation of Mammy’s body. Her body is a captivating symbol in the debate of slavery, as a majority of slaves in this time period were ruled and owned by the rich white people. In time, she was set free from her ties to the life of slavery and from that day forward she was not willing to let anything or anyone control her or her body, not even photography. It was going to be done her way or not at all. In the 115 years that Mammy Prater waited, she practiced her body positions and facial expressions in preparation for the day that she would finally get her self-portrait done....   [tags: poetry analysis]

Powerful Essays
958 words (2.7 pages)

The Red Symbol in The Handmaid's Tale Essay

- In the dystopian novel, "The Handmaid's Tale" written by Margaret Atwood, the color red is a reoccurring, significant symbol throughout the book. The dominant color of the novel, the color red is paired with the Handmaids. The Handmaids are always seen in their red uniform, even down to their red shoes and red gloves. From the opening pages of the novel we are informed that they are trained at the “Red Centre,” and we are introduced to the importance of the red imagery as Offred, the narrator and protagonist of the novel, describes herself getting dressed: “The red gloves are lying on the bed....   [tags: Literature, Margaret Atwood]

Powerful Essays
1155 words (3.3 pages)

The Black White Relationship Of The North Essays

- Unlike the South, the North was against slavery. Although they were against slavery, racism did still exist because they did not want the newly freed Blacks moving to the North. A few cities in the North have some good examples of the the Black-White relationship in the North at the time and population size played a huge factor. At the beginning of the 20TH Century, five thousand Blacks lived in Cleveland. Eighty percent of the black population of Cleveland lived in four districts and they were not the majority in any of those areas....   [tags: White people, African American, Black people, Race]

Powerful Essays
1465 words (4.2 pages)

The Inequality Of The White Black Essay

- Though each individual experiences life differently certain experiences link them together. Specifically, being a person of color while being a singular experience, is also a very universal when it comes down to the way in which minority groups are subject to the oppression of the white mainstream. The friction between being proud of one’s identity or choosing to ignore it and assimilate into society, is complex and is a fact that many people of color struggle with, because it is not easy to be proud of one’s identity when everything around them is telling them not to be, so in a sense these individuals see themselves in two ways, a minority proud of their identity, and then as an outsider i...   [tags: Black people, Racism, White people, Race]

Powerful Essays
1683 words (4.8 pages)

The Black Male By Malcolm White Essay

- In the 1950’s and 1960’s, diversity was usually frowned upon. The word “nigger” defined an African American. They were nothing more than dirty, dumb niggers. Malcolm Little was an African American male who grew up in the North and went through many identities to find the one that suited him. He wanted to change the world, but only after he found out his true identity. Malcolm was not the typical black male. He had a lighter complexion of skin from his mother’s side as well as reddish-brown hair....   [tags: White people, Black people, Martin Luther King]

Powerful Essays
1087 words (3.1 pages)