garet Atwood Handmaid’s Tale EssaysThe Life and Times of Margaret Atwood

Three Sources Cited Atwood was born in Ottawa, Ontario, on November 18, 1939. She lived in a cabin in the Canadian wilderness for most of her childhood (her father was a forest entomologist), and that is where she gained her love for books and reading – probably from boredom. She also took up writing during this time, at the age of six (Margaret Atwood). Sshe came to want ot be a writer her senior year in high school when she says, “all of a sudden a big thumb came out of the sky and touched my head and a poem was formed.” Who would have thought that the young girl who lived in the woods would grow to become a prominent female writer and poet? Atwood went on to attend Victoria College at the University of Toronto. She received a bachelor’s degree there in 1961 and went on to receive her Master’s from Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Mass. In addition, she attended Harvard University in 1962 – 63 and 1965 – 67 (Information Page). When she made the decision to be a writer she said she wanted to “lead a double life. (Margaret Atwood). This double life would include going “places I haven’t been; to examine life on earth; to come to know people in ways, and at depths, that are otherwise impossible; to be surprised…to give back something of what I have received,” said Atwood (Margaret Atwood). She certainly achieved this goal of a double life. Atwood managed to live many places around the world in order to “examine life on earth.” Here is a time line of the places she lived during certain years of her life.

1939 – 1945: Ottawa 1945: Sault Ste. Marie 1946 – 1961: Toronto 1961 – 1963: Boston 1963 – 1964: Toronto 1964 – 1965: Vancouver 1965 – 1967: Boston 1967 – 1968: Montreal 1968 – 1970: Edmonton 1970 – 1971: England (London), France, Italy 1971 – 1972: Toronto 1973 – 1980: Alliston, Ontario 1980 – 1983: Toronto 1983 – 1984: England, Germany 1985: Alabama 1986 – 1991: Toronto 1992: France 1992 – Present: Toronto

As is evident, she liked to move around a lot and to see different people and different things (Information Page).

Although Atwood would have preferred to stay home and write all day she did have a number of jobs over the years. From 1964 – 1965 she lectured English at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. She then moved on to Montreal where she was an English instructor at Sir George Williams University. She taught at the University of Alberta in ’69 and ’70, and in ’71 and ’72 she was an assistant Professor of English at York University in Toronto. She went on to hold many important positions and head many important chairs at universities in Canada, the United States and in Australia (Information Page). While she was working she managed to come out with many novels, poetry books and even a few screenplays.

In 1961 she came out with her first poetry book, Double Persephone (Unofficial Shrine). On the contrary, Atwood is most highly recognized for her novels – namely, The Edible Woman, Cat’s Eye, The Robber Bride, and The Handmaid’s Tale (Unofficial Shrine). The Edible Woman is a story about a woman named Marian McAlpin. She has just become engaged and now it seems that she can’t eat, and, worse yet, she feels as if she is being eaten. The novel Cat’s Eye surrounds the life of Elaine Risley – a journalist who has come back to the city of her childhood only to be haunted by images of the past. The Robber Bride is set in 1970s Canada, where three women and a femme fatale who has joined them in a story of sex and empowerment. Lastly, and most importantly in our case, is The Handmaid’s Tale. It is the story of Offred, a handmaid to one of the “Commander’s of the Faithful,” who must bear her master’s child because his wife is barren (Amazon).

All of these novels, in some way or another, incorporate women and their battles for certain roles in society. Without even consulting Atwood on the matter, you can tell that she has an interest in writing about women and their different roles in society. Although these are her most widely recognized novels, Mrs. Atwood has written many books over the course of her career. Here is a list of the novels that she has published over the years (Information Page).

The Edible Woman; McClelland ; Stewart, 1969;Andre Deutsch, 1969; Atlantic Little-Brown, 1970. Surfacing; McClelland ; Stewart, 1972; Andre Deutsch, 1973; Simon ; Schuster, 1973. Lady Oracle; McClelland ; Stewart, Simon ; Schuster, Deutsch, 1976. Life Before Man; McClelland ; Stewart, 1979; Simon ; Schuster, Cape, 1980. Bodily Harm; McClelland ; Stewart, 1981; Simon ; Schuster, Cape, 1981. The Handmaid’s Tale; McClelland ; Stewart, Houghton Mifflin, 1985; Cape, 1985. Cat’s Eye; McClelland ; Stewart, 1988; Doubleday, 1989. The Robber Bride; McClelland ; Stewart, 1993; Bloomsbury, 1993; Doubleday, 1993. Alias Grace; McClelland ; Stewart, 1996; Bloomsbury, 1996; Doubleday, 1996.

The Handmaid’s Tale is based on the early Puritan society in America (which Atwood studied while attending Harvard). The Puritan’s came to America in order to experience religious freedom, but what they eventually came to experience was a sort of theocracy. They didn’t experience the freedom they came to America to find. Instead, most Puritans were oppressed by a few religious leaders. She has won many awards and honorary degrees for the books she has written. The list is a mile long so we can’t really put them on paper. The most notables of these awards, however, are The President’s Award and the Toronto Arts Award. The excellence in Margaret Atwood’s writing is unmistakable. The question we kept asking though, was whether or not she is really a science-fiction writer or just a normal novelist. When asked is she considered the Handmid’s Tale to be Science Fiction she replied that is is more speculative than sci-fi. “It is a twist of today’s society,” was her quote in the interview.Therefore, she really doesn’t consider herself a science fiction writer. She would more likely call herself a poet or a novelist. Many people also refer to her as a social activist. Mrs. Atwood is referred to as this because she examines issues in society by altering them slightly in her works. In doing this, she informs us of what could happen to our society in hopes of saving us from repeating our mistakes.

Works Cited
http://www.web.net/owtoad/toc.html (The Margaret Atwood Information page)
http://sac.uky.edu/~jrdona0/MA/bib.html (The Unofficial Shrine to Margaret Atwood)
http://www.kutztown.edu/faculty/reagan/atwood.html (Margaret Atwood)
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/subst/home/home.html/002-5215050-2801842 (Amazon)

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