Alumni

The end of the world as we know it Curing disability and recovering from victimization in Margaret Atwood's novels

View Full Record
Description: Disability, according to critic Rosemarie Garland Thomson presents us with the idea of vulnerability and with the suggestion that our bodies, not ourselves, are in control. The fear of this vulnerability forms the basis for several of Margaret Atwood's novels. In my project I plan to focus on three of Atwood's novels: Surfacing, Oryx and Crake, and The Handmaid's Tale, and a collection of poetry and short stories to demonstrate that Atwood's work depicts not only a fear of vulnerability but the desire existing within human nature to try to avoid such a fate. Expanding on the research that currently exists pertaining to Atwood's treatment of the body, my thesis includes the ways in which her treatment of the body reflect upon illness, disability and recovery. The majority of critical research that discusses illness is in relation to her novel Edible Woman. Using this novel as a backdrop for Atwood's discussion of suffering and coping with the sufferings of illness, I will expand the research to include emphasis on this area in several of her short stories, throughout her poetry and in three other main novels in which illness has not yet been discussed in the critical arena. The narrator of Margaret Atwood's 2003 apocalyptic novel, Oryx and Crake, refuses himself relief from the heat either by sitting near fresh water or by allowing himself to swim in it because of his fear of being made to feel that his body is inferior to that of the Crakers. The entire novel focuses on human preoccupation with inferiority and the ability to prevent the feeling of inadequacy through science. As the ultimate project is completed, generating a new strand of homo sapiens, Oryx and Crake shows a world in which invulnerability is achieved through scientific progress. Seeing humans as science intends them to be, Snowman feels inhuman in comparison. Rather than appreciating that they are scientific experiments as he would have in his previous life, the narrator of this novel allows the Crakers to become human and to brand him deformed. This fear of inferiority and human reactions to it form the basis for several of Atwood's novels. Yet it is the desire for recovery that heightens the sensitivity to this vulnerability and foregrounds the possible repercussions of attempting to mitigate it. Although the Crakers were created as a result of the fear extinction, they were also created in an attempt to allow for homo sapiens to better survive any given earthly condition. The Crakers were even built with no preconceived notion of death, making them insusceptible to the fear and weakness that comes with death. In each of the novels, people exist both as agents of disease and as disease itself. In their manipulation of nature, Atwood's characters become familiar with imperfection, not only in the general sense as it applies to all living things, but through their own limitations. Through manipulation, the characters aim for perfection, destroying anything that cannot achieve perfection or that threatens their power. During the course of this journey, these characters discover their own boundaries, put up not solely by their own morals and values but by their own bodies. Teaching themselves how to cope with these boundaries intact allows them to exist in the world created by their own manipulation.
Language: English
Format: Degree Work