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The politics of relationships : an examination of Margaret Atwood’s the Edible Woman, Surfacing and Survival Robertson, Esther Mary

Abstract

In her poetry and novels, Margaret Atwood explores political realities in the relationships " between women and men, and to a significant degree her insights into power-patterns are shaped by an awareness of the ways in which people are trained by their society from childhood to hold one set of attitudes toward women and another toward men. Her portraits of women and men, and of the relationships between them, demonstrate how this double standard has destructive consequences for both sexes, among them the suppression, denial and eventual atrophy of feeling, resulting in relationships governed not by love but by subtle power-games which are characterized by insensitivity and ruthlessness and in which men hold the advantage. In "Survival", Atwood offers a "map" of Canadian Literature, and emphasizes the number of victims to be found therein and the extent to which survival is a preoccupation with Canadian writers. An inconsistency is apparent here, for, although she touches upon sexism, she does not explore the ways in which sex-role conditioning encourages women to play victim roles. Atwood's own analysis of politics in woman-man relationships in the novels and poetry is inconsistent with this omission in "Survival"; the failure in that book to deal with the realities of sexism in Canadian literature indicates that Atwood's analysis of sexism is incomplete.

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