Recognized as one of Canada’s most spectacular living authors, Margaret Atwood is a wonderful storyteller, poet, essayist, novelist, and environmental activist. Suffering is the most recurring theme in Atwood’s poems and overall works, however, it's significant to note that they are never passive victims but the active ones. Atwood is widely renowned and well regarded as someone with her strong support of causes like feminism, social justice & environmentalism. Additionally, even though Atwood has been deemed as a feminist, science fiction & gothic writer, she both transcends and encompasses all of these aforementioned categories considering the range of her words.
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale encompasses all the traits of a so-called patriarchy smashing book. The book has been regarded as a seminal rite-of-passage novel with many young women as the target audience along with it being called a “feminist sacred text.” However, it comes as an absolute shock to know that Margaret Atwood is not really active on considering this novel as a feminist novel at all. According to Atwood, there are a variety of “feminisms” that can be defined. One of those kinds of feminism is the one where it puts the women on a pedestal of the epitome of angelic perfection. Whereas the other version claims women as the extreme victims of patriarchy that renders them unable to make moral choices. Lastly, the third type of feminism is the one with which Atwood is the most comfortable and it labels women as the human beings of flawed nature.
Pertaining to the reason for Atwood's differentiation between women-as-humans and women-as-angels is her firm belief in the women's capability of cruelty and the fact that they can endorse patriarchal norms. This observation of hers is sharp-witted and precise stating that the less power women reside with, the easier it is to retain whatever the little amount of power women manage to retain. This can be see In The Handmaid’s Tale as the wives and aunts are the ones who help in the oppression and imprisonment of women belonging to the lower social status as they have the chance of controlling other women. One of the most concerning elements of Atwood’s dystopian works is that the society justifies sexist oppression through feminist beliefs itself. According to Atwood, it is extremely easy to hold demonstrations about feminism while actively participating in the movements that contribute to restricting women’s freedom. For Atwood, a healthy amount of criticism and scepticism is vital to any discussion. Margaret Atwood has also explained how, in her opinion, feminism is not defined as the presupposition that women are always correct regardless of the circumstances they are in.
Majority of the early works of Atwood send out a very clear feminist message. Her works incline towards the category of the fiction of protest. However, like several other feminist writers, Atwood is very much serious about demonstrating that women are the oppressed in Western society with their options being severely silenced & restricted. There are four novels which are written on this theme particularly. There are: The Edible Woman (1969), Surfacing (1972), Lady Oracle (1976) and Bodily Harm (1981) and The Handmaid's Tale (1983) which is the most radical one in its objection against the mistreatment and oppression of women.
These novels include the criticism of the modern capitalist system while also displaying the progression from age old sex roles to the new ones. Most importantly, they focus on the quest and the struggle for the identity as a woman.
However, Atwood has changed her perspective as it appears that she is beginning to notice that men may also be at the receiving end of the abuse in relationships and solidarity in the sisterhood of women doesn't appear like it should be.
Written by Ayusshi