The Worlds of Margaret Atwood

This is an article I posted on MARSocial, a media/arts website. It was written at the time of her visit to Ireland.

Margaret Atwood, born in Ottawa, Canada (1939) has been awarded over fifty literary prizes and honorary degrees. She has written short stories, poetry and novels, the Handmaiden’s Tale being one of her classics. Her latest novel, MaddAddam, is the last of a trilogy that began with Oryx and Crake, followed by book two, The Year of the Flood. Although she works in all genres, the worlds of Margaret Atwood tend to be dystopian. She has been writing The Happy Zombie Sunrise Home online, with novelist Naomi Alderman, both authors contributing every alternate chapter, allowing the story to evolve as they go along.

It was in the Wizard of Oz, Atwood encountered her first utopian world, where the wizard had set up what he considered an ideal society. The Wicked Witch of the West introduced her to the dystopian world of tyranny. Margaret wrote her first novel about an ant when she was seven years old, being fascinated with science, even at such a young age.

Her father was a biologist and this ignited her curiosity in that field. In her book, MaddAddam, she uses biotechnology where pigs and synthetic flesh are used in the production of human organs. It sounds like science fiction but it has been done. Her trilogy reminds one of The Island of Doctor Moreau, written by H. G. Wells in 1896, at a time when there was a lot of protest against the vivisection of animals. It seems that Margaret Atwood’s worlds have been in existence a long time.

Although the Handmaiden’s Tale, a science fiction novel about a society in which women are subjugated, is one of Atwood’s best known books about women’s issues, she has always been a spokesperson on this topic. In 1969 she published The Edible Woman, a story about Marian, who refuses to eat in an endeavour to keep her body from becoming too feminine. She believes being female is too constraining in the sexist culture in which she lives, however by not eating she is alienating herself from nature.

In an interview with Hot Press magazine, Margaret Atwood spoke to Anne Sexton about her take on control by the state and the controversy over abortion.

“The question is: ‘Should the state have control of people’s bodies?’ That’s what they’re doing, which was the case in the South under slavery. Then it was black bodies, now it is women’s bodies. In totalitarian societies, women are always something that gets controlled. Women are regarded as goods or a service. They are a resource, not citizens.”

Margaret Atwood has said that she will never restrict herself to writing in only one particular genre. At 73 years of age, she is conscious of time slipping away and says, humorously, that she is writing faster. She tweets and is regularly online. Along with novels, poetry and short stories, she has written for television, with many of her works translated into thirty languages. Let us hope that we continue to be introduced to Margaret Atwood’s worlds for a long time to come.

Jean Reinhardt 2013

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About Jean Reinhardt

Author of 'A Pocket Full of Shells' an Amazon International best seller, Jean writes young adult and historical fiction. She has been known to shed a tear over Little House on the Prairie.
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