The Malignant American in Surfacing Essay

The Malignant American in Surfacing Essay

Length: 1434 words (4.1 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

The Malignant American in Surfacing


    Before traveling through Europe last summer, friends advised me to avoid being identified as an American.  Throughout Europe, the term American connotes arrogance and insensitivity to local culture.  In line with the foregoing stereotype, the unnamed narrator's use of the term American in Margaret Atwood's Surfacing is used to describe individuals of any nationality who are unempathetic and thus destructive.  The narrator, however, uses the word in the context of her guilt over her abortion and consequent emotional numbness.  The narrator's vituperative definition of American as an individual who is unempathetic and destructive is largely attributable to the narrator's projection of her own feelings of emotional dysfunction and guilt.

 

Consider an individual who is incapable of empathy.  Such a person has the potential to be enormously destructive to their surroundings.  Without the ability to identify with others, it becomes a matter of indifference whether others experience pain or joy.  The narrator rapidly begins to define an American as just such a psychopath.  As the narrator is fishing in a canoe, two Americans and a local guide pull up in their power boat proudly flying the Stars and Stripes fore and aft, rocking the canoe.  During the conversation in which one of the Americans is "friendly as a shark", the other American throws his cigar in the water and threatens to take his business elsewhere (66).  Of the Americans, the narrator comments, "if they don't get anything in fifteen minutes they'll blast off and scream around the lake in their souped-up boat, deafening the fish.  They're the kind that catch more than they can eat and they'd do it with dynamite if they c...


... middle of paper ...


...st people I spoke to were cognisant of how dangerous it is to blindly apply stereotypes and labels.  In Margaret Atwood's Surfacing, the narrator freely applies the label American to those who are incapable of empathy and destructive.  Her use of the label, however, is to a large extent an expression of the emotional numbness and guilt she feels as a consequence of her abortion.  At the end of the novel, there is hope that the narrator may succeed in reuniting her head and body by reconciling with the events and emotions haunting her past.  Perhaps as the narrator heals herself, her conception of the term American will undergo its own healing process, allowing the word to shed the qualities of insensitivity and destructiveness which were in fact always the narrator's own.



Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret.  Surfacing.  Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Inc., 1972.

Need Writing Help?

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

Check your paper »

Essay about Colonialism in Margaret Atwood's Surfacing

- Colonialism in Margaret Atwood's 'Surfacing' Margaret Atwood's novel 'Surfacing' demonstrates the complex question of identity for an English-speaking Canadian female. Identity, for the protagonist has become problematic because of her role as a victim of colonial forces. She has been colonized by men in the patriarchal society in which she grew up, by Americans and their cultural imperialism, or neo-colonialism as it has come to be known as, and the Euro-centric legacy that remains in her country although the physical presence of English and French rulers have gone....   [tags: Margaret Atwood Surfacing]

Powerful Essays
2900 words (8.3 pages)

The Black and White World of Atwood's Surfacing Essay

- 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....   [tags: Atwood Surfacing Essays]

Powerful Essays
2209 words (6.3 pages)

Essay on The Painful and Lonely Journey in Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing

- The Painful and Lonely Journey in Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing Not all journeys are delightful undertakings. In Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing, the nameless narrator underwent a painful process of shedding the false skins she had acquired in the city, in order to obtain a psychic cleansing towards an authentic self. By recognizing the superficial qualities of her friends, uncovering the meaning of love, and rediscovering her childhood, the narrator was prepared for change. She was ready to take the plunge and resurface in her true form....   [tags: Surfacing]

Powerful Essays
2876 words (8.2 pages)

Margaret Atwood's Surfacing Essay

- Margaret Atwood's 'Surfacing' Throughout the book the narrator constantly intertwines the past and present as though it is side by side. Atwood shows this in the opening sentence ‘’I can’t believe I’m on this road again’’. The use of the adjective ‘again’ reveals the narrator has been in this place in an earlier life. The narrator seems to repress a lot of her past and continuously contradicts herself, which at times confuses the reader as we can not tell whether she is talking about her past or her present and whether she regards it as home as she says ‘’Now were on home ground foreign territory’’....   [tags: Margaret Atwood Surfacing Essays]

Powerful Essays
1297 words (3.7 pages)

Malignant Melanoma Essay example

- Definition Malignant melanoma is a type of cancer arising from the melanocyte cells of the skin. The melanocytes are cells in the skin that produce the pigment melanin. Malignant melanoma develops when the melanocytes no longer respond to normal control mechanisms of cellular growth and are capable of invasion locally or spread to other organs in the body (metastasis), where again they invade and compromise the function of that organ. Description Melanocytes, embryologically derived from the neural crest, are distributed in the epidermis and thus are found throughout the skin....   [tags: Malignant Tumors, Nursing]

Powerful Essays
4345 words (12.4 pages)

Rereading Atwood's Surfacing Essay

- Rereading Atwood's Surfacing The class touched on a multitude of different subjects during the class time for the second discussion of the novel, Surfacing. These discussions were much deeper than the previous one, asking questions on motivation and symbolism rather than plot and language. Two of the most popular subjects were characterization and the validity of the narrator and the information she gives the reader. Other topics were discussed including religion, the bird motif that has appeared throughout our readings this semester, and the narrator's artistic frustration among many others....   [tags: Atwood Surfacing Essays]

Free Essays
702 words (2 pages)

The Psychological Journey of the Narrator in Atwood’s Surfacing Essay

- The Psychological Journey of the Narrator in Atwood’s Surfacing       In Surfacing, a novel by Margaret Atwood, the narrator undertakes three basic journeys: a physical quest to search for her lost father, a biographical journey into her past, and most importantly a psychological journey. The psychological journey allows the narrator to reconcile her past and ultimately leads to the conclusion of the physical journey. In this psychological voyage into her innerself, the narrator, while travelling from cognizant rational reasoning to subconscious dissociated reality progresses through three stages....   [tags: Atwood Surfacing Essays]

Powerful Essays
1991 words (5.7 pages)

Breast Cancer : A Malignant Tumor Essay

- ... The study by Avis et al. (2012) examines women diagnosed with breast cancer and the differences in depression across various age groups. The purpose of the study was to understand the depression rate in younger compared to older women and the associated risk factors. Women aged 25 years and older, within the first 8 months after diagnosis with stages 1, 2, or 3 breast cancer were selected from multiple cancer centers to participate. Each woman was sent a questionnaire and were measured on depressive symptoms according to the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) scale....   [tags: Cancer, Breast cancer, Carcinoma in situ]

Powerful Essays
1334 words (3.8 pages)

A Nursing Process Approach to Malignant Melanoma Essays

- Nursing Process Approach to Malignant Melanoma To fully comprehend the concept of the nursing process, one must first understanding what nursing is and the history of nursing. Nursing has evolved over the years from a basic system of care to a well-developed professional system in which special ways of think are applied in order to efficiently maximums patient care. The base of nursing is patient care, thus the nursing process is the foundation for nursing practice and key to ensuring the needs of the patient are met....   [tags: Nursing Essays]

Powerful Essays
1162 words (3.3 pages)

Surfacing by Margaret Atwood Essay

- Surfacing by Margaret Atwood In "Surfacing," by Margaret Atwood, the unnamed protagonist acquires a radical perception of reality that is developed through an intense psychological journey on the island that served as her childhood home. Truth can be taken from the narrator's viewpoint, but the reader must explore the inner turmoil plaguing her in order to understand the basis of such beliefs. The narrator's perception of reality can be deemed reliable once all of these factors are understood; however, throughout the novel Atwood develops many unseen connections that are essential to such and understanding....   [tags: Papers]

Powerful Essays
1100 words (3.1 pages)