The Theme of Estrangement, Feminism and the Use of Symbolism in Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing

Essay by kane159University, Bachelor'sB+, May 2014

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Palacký University

Faculty of Philosophy

English Philology

The Theme of Estrangement, Feminism and the Use of Symbolism in Margaret Atwood's Surfacing


Ondřej Andrle

11th May 2014

The goal of this essay is to highlight a variety of themes in the novel Surfacing, as well as show the influence of Canada's cultural and geographic values on this book. The novel, presents notions of national and gendered identity, and stirred up concerns about conservation, preservation and emergence of Canadian nationalism. To begin with, I will briefly describe the plot and then proceed to focus on theme of wilderness as a cornerstone of Margaret Atwood's work. Surfacing is structured around the point of view of a young woman who travels with her boyfriend and two married friends to a remote island on a lake in Northern Quebec, where she spent much of her childhood, to search for her missing father.

Accompanied by her lover and another young couple, she becomes caught up in her past and in questioning her future. This psychological mystery tale presents a compelling study of a woman who is also searching for herself. In other words, it is a tale of a woman trying to find a way out of her modern urban life through a trip with friends to a lake in remote northern Quebec where she was raised and where her father has disappeared. The image of wilderness is a crucial part of this Margaret Atwood's novel. In several passages of the novel, both the father and the daughter, who is looking for him in the surrounding woods, seem to be almost unable of stopping the wilderness from controlling their actions. At first, the narrator only admits such a possibility in connection with her own father who, as she fears, "might have gone...