'Homelanding' by Margaret Atwood

Essay by jeyy06 March 2010

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I was in fact very confused by the way Atwood describes the condition of the earth to the outsider (or alien). Because when you start to explain something to someone, you assume that both of you must first know and agree with something together. This feeling started from Atwood’s description of a funeral: “When a person has achieved death a kind of PICNIC is held…”, I thought the word PICNIC quite hilarious, as if an alien would know what a picnic is in the first place. And then I recall having seen a movie about a girl making a documentary. A character referred to “documentary” as “a kind of movie, just boring”. It’s like when we are talking to children. When children ask us about something complicated, we would explain it in simple words which they already know. Following this logic, Atwood must have made quite some assumptions of the aliens: They know what countries, arms, legs, seaweeds, furs, lizards, muscle tissues, communities, mirrors …are.

In fact, they don’t even refer to the Earth as “a planet”. Instead, Atwood explains it as a country (not even an area). So Atwood might have expected the alien to think of all these words as the same thing we know.

But it is ridiculous to interpret Atwood this way, perhaps she has never meant to have thess assumptions, instead, she would simply like to express the things we take for granted in another way. And with this other perspective of looking at things normal to us, we might realize how simple life can be, and what other true beauty there is to experience on this earth. Atwood has covered the appearance of human beings, what human beings live on (changing certain parts of their surroundings into oneself), and she then brought up the difference between man and woman physically and mentally (though not in a very complete way). Then she attempted to bring up some of the beauty and wonders of the Earth, for example the sunrise and seasons. Next she skips to the death, funeral, customs of human beings, claiming that this is what we have in common with the aliens. Since we don’t know anything about any certain aliens, it wasn’t very convincing. It is however very obvious of Atwood that she would like to end the story by “Take me to your trees. Take me to your breakfasts, your sunsets, your bad dreams, your shoes, your nouns…”, with a possible view to remind us that these are the valuable things of our lives. Whether its death or nature, it is this wonder of life that makes everything meaningful.

I personally think it was not very convincing as a story introducing the Earth and human beings to objects coming from outer space. But it has its value in reminding us of the little elements that makes our lives full of surprises and meanings. It is vital to sometimes look at the routines and customs of us in another way (viewing “meat” as “muscle tissues” for example), and we will find many things that we care too much about less serious. “Take me to your leader”, for instance, shows the emphasis of “power and control” in human beings. Atwood would like to tell us that from an outsider’s point of view, many things are trivial, and many more things are worth more concern, such as the beauty of the nature.

Bibliography:Homelanding by Margaret Atwood