The Theme Of Estrangement, Feminism And The Use Of Symbolism In Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing

1471 words - 6 pages

Palacký UniversityFaculty of PhilosophyEnglish PhilologyThe Theme of Estrangement, Feminism and the Use of Symbolism in Margaret Atwood's SurfacingKAA/CS00Ondřej Andrle11th May 2014 The goal of this essay is to highlight a variety of themes in the novel Surfacing, as well as show the influence of Canada's cultural and geographic values on this book. The novel, presents notions of national and gendered identity, and stirred up concerns about conservation, preservation and emergence of Canadian nationalism. To begin with, I will briefly describe the plot and then proceed to focus on theme of wilderness as a cornerstone of Margaret Atwood's work. Surfacing is structured around the point of view of a young woman who travels with her boyfriend and two married friends to a remote island on a lake in Northern Quebec, where she spent much of her childhood, to search for her missing father. Accompanied by her lover and another young couple, she becomes caught up in her past and in questioning her future. This psychological mystery tale presents a compelling study of a woman who is also searching for herself. In other words, it is a tale of a woman trying to find a way out of her modern urban life through a trip with friends to a lake in remote northern Quebec where she was raised and where her father has disappeared. The image of wilderness is a crucial part of this Margaret Atwood's novel. In several passages of the novel, both the father and the daughter, who is looking for him in the surrounding woods, seem to be almost unable of stopping the wilderness from controlling their actions. At first, the narrator only admits such a possibility in connection with her own father who, as she fears, "might have gone insane. Crazy, loony. Bushed" (Atwood 64). She realizes that if 'bushing' truly is the case, the old man may be completely transfigured, unrecognizable even to her (Atwood 83) as the wilderness changes people both physically and mentally: "I wondered when it had started; it must have been the snow and the loneliness, he'd pushed himself too far, it gets in through your eyes, the thin black cold of mid-winter night, the white days dense with sunlight, outer space and freezing again into different shapes, your mind starts doing the same thing" (Atwood 110). It is not just the father's mind, though, that gets affected by the overwhelming power of nature. Already after a few days in the woods, the main protagonist notices a shift in her own behavior too. This new (or just intensified) nature-oriented awareness gets more and more noticeable through the narrator's actions; however, it also includes an emotional stage bordering on madness. The narrator gradually starts feeling a sort of "animality" being brought out by the new environment. In order to understand what her father went through and, eventually, what she expects from her life, too, the narrator feels an urge to literally "merge with the wilderness" (Žantovská 263). She...

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