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The present work attempts to delineate Margaret Atwoods fiction

in the light of quest of identity and quest of survival. Margaret Atwood

holds a prominent place among Canadian writers. Through her writing she

has set a new trend in Canadian literature. As a feminist writer Margaret

Atwoods aim is to explore womans inner psyche, their conflict, search

for identity, identity of selfhood, identity of womanhood, national identity,

cultural identity and religious identity.

Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in

northern Ontario and Quebec bush, and Toronto. She received her

undergraduate degree from Victoria college at the University of Toronto

and Masters degree from Radcliff college. Margaret Atwood has received

alot of numerous awards and several honorary degrees. She is the author

of more than twenty five volumes of poetry, fiction and nonfiction and is

perhaps best known for her novels, which includes, The Edible woman,

The Handmaids Tale, The Robber Bride, Alias Grace.

Her best novel, The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious

Booker Prize, was published in the fall of 2000. Acclaimed for her talent

for portraying both personal and worldly problems of Universal concern,

Ms. Atwoods work has been published in more than thirty languages,

including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Spanish, Korean.

Canadian poet, novelist and critic, noted for her feminism and

sythological themes. Atwoods work has been regarded as a barometer of

feminist thought. Her protagonist are often a kind of every woman

characters or weaker number of society. Atwoods works have achieved

both wide popular readership and much critical attention. Criticism has

tended to focus on her political and social view as they are represented in

her works, most notably her feminism, of which has spoken frequently in

interviews. Because her works often Portray physical and psychological

violence in relationships between men and women, some commentators

have labeled Atwood as a pessimistic and dismissed her as little more than

an ideologue, but other critics have hailed her as a visionary interpreter of

contemporary feminist thought.

Atwoods fiction is often symbolic. She has moved easily between

satire and fantasy, and enlarged the boundaries of traditional realism. In

an attempt to reestablish their self in satisfying homes, these women

purpose a path, as have women throughout history, to marriage. They

search for a male figure, imagining a refuge caught up in the romantic

stereotypes that assign and perpetual gender roles.

Canada's ethnic, racial and religious diversity is rapidly increasing.

According to the Census 2011, more than 200 ethnic origins are

represented in Canada. About 13.5 percent of the population is a member

of a visible minority group and that proportion is expected to reach 20

percent by 2016. Immigration now accounts for more than 50 percent of

Canada's populations growth with immigrant coming mainly from Asia

and Middle East. It is projected that, after 2025, Canada's population

growth will be based solely on immigration. Canadian culture is a product

of Canada's history and geography. Most of Canada's territory was

inhabited and developed later than other European colonies in the

America, with the result that theme and symbols of pioneers, trappers, and

traders were important in the early development of Canadian culture. The

British conquest of Canada in 1759 brought a large Francophone

population under British rule, creating a need for compromise and

accommodation, while the migration of united empire loyalist from the

thirteen colonies brought in strong British and American influence. Today,

Canada has a diverse makeup of nationalities and cultures and constitution

protection for polices that promote multiculturalism rather than a single

national myth. Cultural protectionism in Canada has since the mid 20th

century, taken the form of consciousness interventionist attempts on the

part of various Canadian governments to promote Canadian cultural

production and limit the effect of foreign, largely American, culture on the

domestic audience. Sharing a large border and a common language with

the United States, Canada faces a difficult position in regard to American

culture, be it American culture, and be it direct attempt at the Canadian

marker or the general diffusion of American culture. When we discuss

Culture of a nation, it includes each and every aspects, which influenced

to this like renew, arts, literature, symbols, sport, music, politics,

economic, and geographical portrait. In the realm of cultural policy, and

particularly areas in which Canada's interests are centered, no significant

progress is evident. This, of course, does not mean the total absence of

moves to address persuaded of the meaning government ownership,

regulation, and subsidy in the cultural field has for Canadians, US officials

did finally agree that 'Cultural industries' should not be brought within the

largely free market terms of the pact. Thus, making a gesture toward a

vital Canadian concern, they contributed mightily to the successful

outcome of the talk.

In the early decades of the new century, the impulse toward cultural

creativity quickened substantially. Driven in part by the continuing growth

in Canadian society's complexity by 1921 the balance between the

country's rural and urban population was almost even, with a concomitant

growth of audiences, proliferation of galleries and museums, and

development of musical groups and in part by the new burst of

nationalism stimulated by pride in Canada's accomplishments "during

world War I" this materially strengthened thrust in the direction of

painting, literature, musical endeavour, and theatre produced a body of

work that, in both quality and quantity, was superior to anything that had

gone before.

The question that arises in the context of the present discussion,

however, is; How much of this multiculturalstic situation is reflected in

the literature of Canada? The novels of Margaret Atwood do have,

without doubt, a specific socio-cultural back ground in as much as they

have well defined too that her novels reflects the Canadian social science

in all its variety, colour and complexity.

The American presence continues to remain a threat to the

Canadian identity and the imminent some believe - Americanization of

Canada remains as frightening a possibility as ever as is evidenced for

instance, by the controversy over the free trade in the mid-80s. The

Canadians continue to feel insecure because of the proximity of the U.S.

culture and feel compelled to resist on identification with the U.S. An

important discussion on 'Amercia the Brazen' and the resentment is

domineering gesture create abroad by Jame Walsh, Time 4 August 1997's

focused on one of her most ironic and memorable image of Canadian

American relations: "About the only position they have adopted towards

us, country to country, has been the missionary position, and we were not

on top. A guess that is why the national wisdom vis--vis. They have so

often taken the form of lying still, keeping your mouth shut and pretending

you like it

The quest for identity is, of course, not a peculiar Canadian

problem. It is a fate Canada shares with all post colonial or new nations.

However, what distinguishes the Canadian predicament from that of the

other countries is the continuation of identity - crisis over an inordinately

long time span. For, although it is more than a century since Canada

attained its sovereign status as a confederate country by the British North

America Act of 1867, the quest for a distinctive national identity continues

to remain an ongoing preoccupation in Canada. Until the 1867

confederation, Canada was a colony of the British Empire. The history of

Canada, therefore, was the British Empire.

Canadian identity refers to the set of characteristics and symbols

that many Canadians regard as expressing their unique place and role in

the world. Identity as Canadian and this identity can be metaphoric as well

as actual. As Margaret Atwood writes in Night Poem, "In this country of

water. . . . your shadow is not your shadow but your reflection (Two

headed Poem, 106). To be Canadian, for Atwood, is a 'State of Mind'.

Currently, Canada is home to more than 100 ethnic groups who

speak of different languages, irrespective of the fact that Canadian

literatures written in two major languages, English and French. Canadian

literature evolved directly from Victorian into post-modern, first Canadian

literature remained Victorian during its colonial period which may also be

called its modern literature. Secondly, when the country freed itself from

its colonial identity.

Canadian literature to be dominated by natural or small town

settings by images of the wilderness or rural life. Canada is both young

and old. It is young as a nation, only slightly more than one hundred year

old. When the four original provinces of lower Canada (Quebec), upper

Canada (Ontario) Nova Scottia, and New Bruns wick united to form the

dominion of Canada under the British North America Act of 1867, there

southern neighbour, the United States, was already approaching the

celebration of its essential. The tenth and last province, New found land,

joined the dominion in 1949; the country as presently constituted is

scarcely a quarter century old. At the same time Canada is old as a place

of European settlement. Near the end of tenth century the Viking arrived

on Canada's Atlantic Coast, and about five centuries before Christopher

Columbus discovered America. Canadian's history is the record of a

colony paying allegiance to several mother countries to follow Canada's

historical development is to trace its time as colony of France England

and, finally most elusively, as an economic colony of the United States.

Part of the history of Canada is an account of the slow realization of its

own independence, an acceptance of its importance within an international

framework, and most significant, a discarding of the colonial mentality

which had characterized the country and its action for many years.

The issue of Canadian identity remains under scrutiny, perhaps

more than the identity of the people of any other modern nation. Journalist

Andrew Cohen wrote in 2007, "The Canadian identity, as it has come to

be known, is as elusive as the Sasquatch and Ogopoge. It has animated -

and frustrated - generation of statesmen, historian, writers, artists,

philosophers, and the Nation Film Board..... Canada a resist's easy


The portrayal of women in search of an identity for their own selves

as well as of their country's cultural identity is an important phenomenon

in recent Canadian fiction. Atwood's vision of life centre around the

psyche, the soul and the consciousness of man. The women as portrayed

by Atwood sufferer from personal victimization which has its roots in the

colonial pattern of destruction. The women feel inferior to men and suffix

psychological tensions, which supports the view that women's lives

constitutes an experience of colonialism. This is portrayed by women

writers who try to picture the individual's place in the male dominated

society. Remaining in this colonised state they fell oppressed and find it

difficult to communicate with others and feel others as strangers. The

portrayal of women's place in the society, their search for identity and

their struggle to come to terms with existence, the self and the land gives a

new dimension to the Canadian landscape which portrays the changing

character of their country. Novels like Atwood's surfacing 1972 and

Bodily Harm 1981 portray, for instance, not only the lives of individuals

but also the general outlook of life which reflects the lack of patriotism in

the country. It is from the lives of particular persons that the general life of

the society evolves and is again the general life which in its turn shapes

individual lives. While introspection, self - analysis and an attempt to

come to terms with one's self both through isolation and social interaction

are featured, the novels also reflect the regional realities and national

consciousness, a consciousness which includes awareness of economic,

political and linguistic and racial differences which act as obstacles to

national unity. Atwood like her contemporaries sought to record local

experiences with a distinctive local voice which at the same time made for

an assertion of the regional national and cultural identity of nation.

Atwood's protagonists educated and have a full knowledge of their

life. All the protagonists tried hard to find out their identity. Atwood's

novels suggest new possibilities of accuracy identity based on the

experience of social life. She is able to describe intellectual concepts to

connect with the personal and the social, the local and the cosmic identity

of human being in her novels. This has always been an important function

of her fiction, to get the identity. Atwood and other Canadians of her

generation went back to Canada to publish their own work:

"Instead of trying to publish in New York or London or Paris. We

started thinking in terms of Canadian Publication for a Canadian


Quest of survival explored by Atwood in her works as a Canadian

writer, deals with the issue of victimization and survival as condition of

both the Canadian experience and female experience. Atwood's novels

themes related to the survival such as the enforced alienation of women

under patriarchal attempt to annihilate the selfhood of women, the gradual

carving out of female space of women, through various strategies and

women's quest for identity, self definition and autonomy. Structurally,

Atwood is an innovator who experiments with various narrative forms.

Victim position in survival, she did it as an aid to the study of

Canadian literature, where she found a superabundance of victims, as she

herself has said that the positions are the same whether you are a victim, a

victimized minority group or a victimized individual. In the position of

victimization the fact of being a victim is acknowledge, the responsibility

for it is transferred to something vast, nebulous and unchangeable like

Biology or womanhood. Either the victim does this by herself or she

accepts such an explanation and definition of herself as given by others.

Her protagonists are not very heroic heroines in the beginning of their

adventures and sometimes not even at the conclusion. They are not to

really reliable narrators; they may lie to the reader as they sometimes lie to

themselves, or in some instances, they are even a bit mad. They are often

fragmented, isolated, seeing poorly, and translating badly. All are, in

varying degrees, failed artists like those metaphorically paralysed and

amputated authors whom Atwood describes in Survival, cut off from

tradition, bereft of audience and of social or political relevance. All of

Atwood writer and artist protagonists share a curious ambivalence towards

their craft. They often use their fictions for the evasion of realty rather

than for combination, they create illusion rather than transform reality.

Much like Atwoods mirror images, so central to all her novels and

poems, art can function, as it does for these heroines, as a way to lose the

self in a vision of the self, to establish a conflict between the I of the self

and she of ones fiction, to become object rather than subject, to create

polarities where none should exist. Atwoods innocent and at least

symbolically virginal heroine, she implies, must like Canada as a whole,

refute the illusion of their own innocence, recognise their complicity in the

destructive cycle of power and victimisation, and thus comfort their own


Atwoods method, how to approach is new. She thinks and then

works on the subjects. Atwood believe in realism, the hard reality of life.

Her love for past living in future makes her novels interesting. She judges

fairly her characters and their consequences are true to the realities. She

tries to cover the terrible gab between man and women. Her interest in

sexuality separates her from others. Her novels are creative woks and can

serve as guideline to those who lost values and moral in their lives. She

believes that women will have to come forward to change their social and

national situations even if the final situation worked out in the novel of

Margaret Atwood.

Margaret Atwoods fictions not depressive or gloomy nor does she

writes out of bitterness, on the contrary, she writes with full faith in

mankind and with love and compassion for human failure in this imperfect

world. By presenting the apparently disorderly lives of her protagonist,

makes people aware of the modern mans dilemma and drives home the

need for universal love and individual identity of the person. Inspite of the

discouraging reality of the surface story, Margaret Atwood constantly

reaffirms her faith in human values and humans ability to achieve their

identity and quest of survival.


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