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Author Study: Margaret Atwood Curated by Samuel Yang '18

A LibGuide on the finest living Canadian novelist, poet, environmental & human rights activist

About the Author: Margaret Atwood

Margaret Eleanor "Peggy" Atwood, born in 1939, Ontario, Canada, wrote multiple speculative and science fiction novels that won her numerous awards and honours. Atwood's most famous books include The Blind Assassin, Cat's EyeThe Handmaid's Tale, Alias Grace, and The Oryx and Crake Trilogy.

Margaret Atwood is the most famous contemporary writer in Canada. Besides being a novelist, she is also a poet, a critic, and an environmental activist. Atwood was born in Ottawa, Canada and loved writing since she was 6 years old. Since then she practiced writing until she enrolled in University of Toronto to study literature to formally start writing. 

While Atwood writes dystopian novels and occasionally the disturbing ones, she is actually a very charismatic and cheerful lady in real life. This is her advice on life: “I always have fun with whatever I do. There’s too much around that’s not fun. People should live life as joyfully as possible”.

Margaret Atwood published her first book in 1964, called The Edible Women. In The Edible Women, the narrator Marian McAlphin starts endowing food with human-like qualities that make them inedible. Through Atwood’s witty style of writing, she shows oppression and the lack of freedom McAlphin feels from her fiancé and others around her.  

Throughout this semester, I heavily focused on Atwood’s novels and studied her style, context, themes, and critical lenses. I read three of her books, The Blind Assassin, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Cat’s Eye. Within these three books, I had analyzed and categorized information based heavily on themes and style.

Atwood is quite the witty writer. She plays with the characters and toys with your emotions. She included a lot of descriptive pages that conveyed feelings, secrets, and symbols and used simple, short sentences to explain the 

Atwood writes obvious social problems, and she has fun writing them. In one of her many interview she said, “I write what I see in the world, things I have observed in my daily life”. Her works have also been critiqued with environmental, postmodernism and low-key Canadian nationalism.

Something else that I have thoroughly enjoyed about Atwood’s novels is that they each contain so much more than what you ask for. The main plot is explained extremely well, and the sub-plots are just as, if not better. These sub-plots include a lot of motifs and dialog that link together to form hidden information. This is very obvious is how Atwood ends her stories. Because Atwood doesn’t enjoy having restrictions to her works, she doesn’t like giving you an ending that concludes the book entirely. When Atwood was asked about the true endings of her novels, she pushes the question away by saying that she will not give an ending because a concluded and final definition of how a character turns out limits the freedom of our imagination.