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PRESENTATION PLAN:

•AUTHOR
•PLOT
•CHARACTERS

•MAIN TOPICS:
* Feminine Identity.
* Nature and Madness.
* Colonialism and Xenophobia.
* Language.
•RELEVANCE OF THE TITLE.
THE AUTHOR
•Margaret Atwood
•1939.
•Ottawa, Canada.
•Raised in Toronto.
•Lived in the wilderness.
•Poet, Novelist, Critic and Shortstory writer
•Surfacing is Margaret Atwood's second
novel, which was published in 1972
PLOT

Margaret Atwood´s Surfacing reflects


the politics and issues of the
Postmodern society. The narrator of the
story (who remains nameless) is a
young woman who travels with her
boyfriend and two married friends to
the undeveloped island on a lake in
Northern Quebec that she grew up on to
search for her missing father. There, she
becomes caught up in her past and in
questioning her future.
CHARACTERS

THE NARRATOR:

-NAMELESS: Emphasis on the universality of the


narrator´s feelings of alienation from society.

-MADNESS: Caused from her anger at all of the


standard roles forced upon women.

-RESPONSE TO ALIENATION: Transformation


into an animal (graceful creatures coexisting
with nature).
-RESULT OF THE TRANSFORMATION: A
better understanding of her place in society.

-RE-EMERGENCE as a powerful being to


cope with society´s ills.

JOE

-At first, simple-minded and agreeable.

-His personality undergoes changes: he


becomes irritable when the narrator refuses
his marriage proposal.
-His actions become less predictable.

-The narrator´s impression of their love shifts.

-He is appreciated by the narrator for his


physical qualities.

-He displays his sincere affection for the


narrator when he searches for her on the
island.

-His true character is unknowable.


DAVID

-Model of male dominance (Patriarchal


Society)

-Initially appears to be an ideal husband.

-Depicted by the narrator as cruel and


empty.

-Controlling and domineering over Anna´s


behaviour.
-Objectifies Anna.

-Anti-american sentiment (prediction of an


American invasion of Canada).

-He possesses all of the despicable


characteristics that the narrator associates with
Americans.

-However, he has some American


characteristics (Fond of baseball and American
cartoon characters).
ANNA

-Role: Reflects the narrator opinions about Love,


Sex and Marriage.

-Subjugated woman (Conformist woman).

-Her marriage degrades as the story progresses.

-She is initially admired and envied by the


narrator.

-Her life becomes a cautionary tale for the


narrator.
FEMINST IDENTITY

HISTORICAL CONTEXT:

*First Wave of Feminist Movement:

Focused mainly on overturning legal


obstacles (voting rights, property rights).
•SECOND WAVE FEMINIST MOVEMENT:

Adressed a wide range of issues such


as Sexuality, Family, The Workplace and
Reproductive Rights.

LEGAL VICTORIES:

+WOMEN´S EDUCATIONAL EQUITY ACT 1972


+EQUAL CREDIT OPPORTUNITY ACT 1974
+PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION ACT 1978
+LEGALIZATION OF MARITAL RAPE 1975
AIN´T I a WOMAN?

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into
carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place
everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-
puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain´t I a woman? Look at
me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered
into barns, and no man could head me! Ain´t I a woman? I could
work as much and eat as much as a man(…)
(…) he says women can´t have as much rights as men, ´cause
Christ wasn´t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? From
God and a Woman! Man had nothing to do with him!...”

Text of the Speech “Ain´t I a Woman” by Sojourner Truth, delivered at


the 1851 Women´s Convention in Akron, Ohio.
•THE POWER INHERENT IN PREGNANCY,

•THE SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS OF MAKE UP


(Feminity),

•THE PSYCHOLOGICAL MECHANISMS THAT MEN


USE TO EXERT CONTROL OVER WOMEN AND
THE COMPLETE ALIENATION OF WOMEN.

•THE NOTION OF A NATURAL WOMAN


(Female),
(p.16 chapter 2)“…they may find my jeans ans sweatshirt and fringed
over-the-shoulder bag strange, perhaps immoral”

(p.19 ch 2) “…not the divorce, it isn´t part of the vocabulary here…”

(p21 ch 3) “..he disapproved of slacks, the women had to wear long


concealing skirts and dark stockings and keep their arms covered in
church. Shorts were against the law…”

(p30 ch4) “I couldn´t have brought the child here, I never identified as
mine.. It was my husband´s, he imposed it on me, all the time it was
growing in me I felt like an incubator. He measured everything he
would let me eat, he wanted a replica of himself, after it was born I
was no more use. He was clever: he kept saying he loved me”

(p55 ch6) “I thought I was really a princess and I´d end up living in a
castle”
(p.79 ch 9) “they shut you into a hospital, they shave the hair off you
and tie your hands down and they don´t let you use, they don´t want
you to understand, they want you to believe it´s their power, not
yours.”

(p97 ch10) “Prove your love, they say. You really want to marry me,
let me fuck you instead.”

(p123 ch14) “He wants me to look like a young chick all the time, If I
don´t he gets mad. He´s got this little set of rules. If I break one of
them I get punished, except he keeps changing them so I´m never
sure.”
NATURE-MADNESS

•MEANS OF CHANGING THE MAIN CHARACTER AND


MAKING HER REALIZE THE TRUTH ABOUT HERSELF.

•SHE IS ON A QUEST TO FIND HER FATHER AND TO FIND


HERSELF.

•SHE DOES NOT UNDERSTAND THE WAYS OF HER


HUMAN LIFE.

•SHE HAS TROUBLE FITTING INTO INTO HUMAN SOCIETY


AND FELLING ACCEPTED.

•SHE BELIEVES THAT SHE FITS WITH THE WILDERNESS


WITHIN THE WORLD.
“One of its eyes is bulging out and I feel a little sick, It´s because I´ve
killed something, made it death”

•ALTOUGH MAD, SHE IS CORENT ENOUGH TO


UNDERSTAND WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE WORLD AND
SHE DOES NOT WANT TO BE HUMAN ANY MORE.

•SHE ABANDONS ALL SOCIAL STANDARDS, HER


CLOTHES, SHE STAYS OUT OF THE CABIN AND EATS AS
AN ANIMAL, AS A PRODUCT OF NATURE.

(p 173, chapter 21) “I walk to the hill and scan the shoreline, finding
the place, opening, where they disappeared: checking, reassuring. It’s
true, I am by myself; this is what I wanted, to stay here alone. From any
rational point of view I am absurd; but there are no longer any rational
points of view”
•THE WATER SHE IS DIVING IS A SYMBOL OF HER
UNCONSCIOUS.

(P 182 and 183, chapter 23) “I untie my feet from the shoes and walk
down to the shore; the earth is damp, cold, pockmarked with raindrops. I
pile the blanket on the rock and step into the water and lie down. When
every part of me is wet I take off my clothes, peeling them away from my
flesh like wallpaper. They sway beside me, inflated, the sleeves bladders
of air.
My back is on the sand, my head rests against the rock, innocent as
plankton; my hair spreads out, moving and fluid in the water. The earth
rotates, holding my body down to it as it holds the moon; the sun pounds
in the sky, red flames and rays pulsing from it, searing away the wrong
form that encases me, dry rain soaking through me, warming the blood
egg I carry. I dip my head beneath the water, washing my eyes.
Inshore a loon; it lowers its head, then lifts it again and calls. It sees me
but it ignores me, accepts me as part of the land.
When I am clean I come up out of the lake, leaving my false body floated
on the surface, a cloth decoy; it jiggles in the waves I make, nudges
gently against the dock”
She wants to raise a child in the wilderness
and show him/her the beauty of the life in the
wild:

(p 165, chapter 20) “I can feel my lost child surfacing within me,
forgiving me, rising from the lake where it has been prisoned
for so long, its eyes and teeth phosphorescent; the two halves
clasp, interlocking like fingers, it buds, it sends out fronds.
This time I will do it by myself, squatting, on old newspapers in
a corner alone; or on leaves, dry leaves, a heap of them, that's
cleaner. The baby will slip out easily as an egg, a kitten, and I'll
lick it off and bite the cord, the blood returning to the ground
where it belongs; the moon will be full, pulling. In the morning I
will be able to see it: it will be covered with shining fur, a god, I
will never teach it any words.”
•SHE REALIZES THAT PAIN EXISTS EVERYWHERE,
EVEN IN NATURE.
COLONIALISM-XENOPHOBIA

HISTORICAL CONTEXT:

*Quebec: French ascendancy

Nationalism and Separation

Quiet Revolution

American Cultural Expansion


Margaret Atwood´s Surfacing

•Postcolonial Novel (not in the


traditional sense).
•America´s cultural infiltration of Canada
is a form of colonialism.
•Explores an emerging Canadian
national identity.

•David accuses Malmstrom of being a CIA agent


organizing an American invasion of Canada.
•The author´s assumption that the Americans
killed a heron.

•The discovery that the campers are Canadians.

AMERICAN EXPANSION

º Images of Americans invading and ruining


Canada:
.The Americans install missile silos,
.pepper the village with tourist cabins,
.leave trash everywhere and kill for sport,
.David theory of an American invasion for
Canadian water.
ºAmerican expansion as a result of
psychological and cultural infiltration:

.The narrator calls Americans a brain


disease.
.An American is anyone who commits
senseless violence, loves technology,
or overconsumes.
.David claims he hates Americans, yet
he loves baseball ans imitates Woody
Woodpecker
Surfacing demonstrates the complex question
of identity for an English speaking Canadian
female.

Double colonization: She has been colonized


by men in the patriarchal society she grew up
and by Americans and their cultural
imperialism.

The definite condemnation of this


Americanization of people and places is
symbolically demonstrated with the narrator´s
final rejection of friends, her clothes and food.
LANGUAGE

ºLanguage as a connection to Society:


.The narrator´s feeling of powerlessness is
coupled woth an inability to use language.
.Communictaion in Surfacing is stifled, non-
verbal adn complex.

ºRejection to the English and French lang:


.Foreign tongues spoke poison instead
of words.
.Her inability to communicate with the townsfolk
isolates her more, makes her more an outsider.
(P22, chapter 3) “Avez vous du viande hache?” I ask her, blushing
because of my accent. She grins then and the two men grin also, not at
me but at each other. I see I’ve made a mistake, I should have
pretended to be an American. ”

“Amburger, oh yes, we have lots. How much?” she asks, adding the H
carelessly to show she can if she feels like it. This is border country.
“A pound, no, two pounds”, I say, blushing even more because I’ve
been so easily discovered, they’re making fun of me and I have no way
of letting them know I share the joke. Also I agree with them, if you live
in a placer you should speak the language. But this isn’t where I live.

º Language and her Mother:

.Everything that is mentioned of her mother


involves the absence of speech.
.Her mother´s understanding requires silence.

. She distrusts lang, as a means of


communication proposing a non-verbal or
meta-language as superior.

ºLanguage and her Lover:

.Joe expresses himself without words.

. He is “Beautiful Joe” beacuse he shares silent language.

.Love is a word she does not trust, it hurts.


ºLanguage at the end:

.Silence and detachment become her refuge.

.She has respect and admiration for the things that


need no use of words, speech or formal
communication.

(p 190, chapter 25) “two of them clima the hill to the cabin. They are
talking,
their voices are distinct but they penetrate my ears as sounds only,
foreign radio.
It must be either English or French but I can’t recognize it as any
language I’ve ever heard or known”.

(p 191, chapter 25) “Behind me they crash, their boots crash,


language ululating, electronic signals thrown back and forth between
them, hooo, hooo, they talk
in numbers, the voices of reason”.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH !