Analysis of Margaret Atwoods' short story "The Resplendent Quetzal"

Essay by paigelet123College, UndergraduateA-, April 2003

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"The Resplendent Quetzal", by Margaret Atwood, is the story of Sarah and Edward, a disparaging husband and wife, who lost their child at birth and consequently lost their love for one another. This story focuses on the individual way that they dealt with the same tragedy and how it led them to become who they are today. Atwood uses symbolism and descriptive character analysis to show how far the degeneration of their relationship has gone. They both continue with their superficial relationship, unable to face the emotional scars of their past because they are too afraid of the reparations it will generate for the future.

Sarah is self-described as "comely" (271). She views everything Edward does with disdain and contempt, a view that stems from the blame she places on him for their baby's death. His thrifty spending exasperates her: they travel via bus, stay in cheap hotels and instead of going to a "perfectly nice [restaurant] in the village where they were staying" (HASF 275) he insists they go to a "seedy, linoleum-tiled hutch" (275).

Edward bores her with his so-called obsessions; he never sticks with them (except the birds). She too "had once herself been one of his obsessions" (271). Sarah views Edward as a "total idiot" (272), given the fact that he always appears to fall for her bird trick, which in turn insults, yet even more so, confuses Edward. "For someone [Sarah] so devious, she was often incredibly stupid" (272). Sarah represses her festering emotions by being curt and contemptuous, creating a starched, barely functional relationship.

Sarah's continuous belittlement of Edward drives him to be continuously occupied. Subsequently he appears to be an on the go, eager to learn man, busying himself with his job as a Grade 6 teacher and his ever-changing hobbies.