ENG353Y1 Study Guide - Final Guide: Nice Ltd., Apotheosis
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ENG353: Canadian Fiction
Margaret Atwood: Surfacing
Mother's albums of photographs/scrapbook of her own and her brother's
childhood. Hers: dresses, his: war.
Triggers memories: inexplicably intolerant of her most recent memories.
Drawing: weird creatures. Crude drawings of anthropoids and strange creatures
with strange comments. P60. "forgotten possibility" etc.
Looking for will, looks again at the drawings. Increasingly believes he's insane.
"Total derangement." Then, finds a letter which indicates he's been transcribing
rock drawings onto paper, engaging in research. Figures he must be dead.
Compelled by morbid curiosity to follow map to the source of the drawings.
This was the real reason she refused to talk to her parents, had this
cool distant persona.
Not the realization of her father's death that startles her: it's the memory
of her aborted child that comes back to her. (Coerced into abortion, never
Finds the body of her father under the water, who has drowned, weighed down
by a heavy camera.
Letting go of civilization: lets go of cabin, grounds, food, clothing,
markers to civilization. Civilization has imposed gender identity on
her she doesn't want. Goes into animal state that isn't derogatory,
Persuades lover to impregnate her, then runs away from companions,
living naked on the island. Puts taboos on herself re: eating, starts
Mistakes monster for father: realizes its footprints are her own. (Parents
described as gods.) Left alone with child, novel ends with Joe in a boat who
has come back for her.
Sets out to shed false self. The self conditioned by society to feel shame and feel
less + fabricated self, unlearn adulthood and return to childish state. Attain
Being on a boat = quest! Journey motif.
Seeking father who is missing, perhaps dead. Goes to isolated island in Canadian
First part of the novel catalogues many aspects of separation.
Second part: discovers, with time on her hands, relics of her parents life in the house.
Begins like a detective story: who-dun-it story.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
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Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing has been generally accepted as an archetypal narrative
dealing with a quest for rebirth and transformation. The model of the quest on which
she relies is articulated in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
According to Campbell the hero is:
This formula –separation, initiation, and return –provides the structural principal of
Don't focus on the action too much. Questioning/dismantling the quest narrative.
Think about it in terms of the conventions of the quest.
Usually a separation from home
Descent (often into underworld)
The return. (Title: surfacing from descent.)
Quest not just for object, but also for understanding. ("I" on the quest back to her
She dives under water for her father: descent. How do you return as a woman in
contemporary society? Atwood says transform.
Major: it's a woman quest-er!
Each division of the novel focuses on one of the three steps.
First impression of restlessness. Quest for father is straightforward, also to the
mother, and eventually to the narrator's own self (identity).
Keeping with conventional structure, we have the I/narrator who undergoes the three-
step process. Because it's post-modern, it subscribes to these convention but deviates
C) Initiation: Next Part of the Quest
2. The Quest
Return to self achieved by a series of actions.
Man is constructed as godlike or hellish, woman is constructed as a victim.
A) The Return (to Self)
i) Demeter-Korê myth: The narrator’s sexual act with Joe does not
necessarily have to mean further victimization; like Kore who
becomes the powerful Persephone, the narrator is transformed into
a woman with power.
Figure of the woman with a round-moon stomach. Right of passage from
girlhood to womanhood.
a) Sex with Joe
1. The Quest Continued
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