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Hutcheon, Linda >

Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/9421

Title: Atwood and Laurence: Poet and Novelist
Authors: Hutcheon, Linda
Keywords: Canadian literature
Atwood, Margaret
Laurence, Margaret
Issue Date: 1978
Publisher: Studies in Canadian Literature
Citation: Hutcheon, Linda. "Atwood and Laurence: poet and novelist." Studies in Canadian Literature 3 (1978): 255-263.
Abstract: Margaret Atwood and Margaret Laurence are two popular and respected figures within a culture that is particularly rich in female writers of both poetry and fiction. Much of the work of these two writers deals explicitly with the problems of feminine identity and the threats, both external and internal, to it. The titles of their works point to this theme - Atwood's The Edible Woman and Laurence's The Stone Angel, for example - but the titles also announce the central controlling image that will structure each of the novels in formal as well as thematic terms. Here, however, the similarity between the two writers ends. Technically the structural use made of that central image is different in each case, and this difference is one that is felt by the reader. It is not that Atwood, for instance, uses more imagery or symbolism in her fiction, but that she tends to have considerably more trust in her reader's ability to discern for himself the structural and thematic function of each image. The Edible Woman is indeed structured around the title image: most scenes occur at mealtimes; many of the jobs mentioned are food-oriented; many characters - including the heroine - have foodrelated problems. Yet at no time does Atwood actually tell us that Marian is or is in danger of being "the edible woman." Instead she shows this (to borrow Henry James's distinction), and it is the narrative imagery that brings about the thematic actualization. The reader is left to figure out the links for himself: Peter talks of hunting - equally terrifyingly with knife, gun, or camera - and Marian runs in her target-red dress. Such showing is very different from Hagar Shipley's telling the reader in The Stone Angel that when her son John died, she did not weep but rather turned to stone; that, like the family stone angel in the cemetery, she too had been blind; and that at the end of her life it is her other son Marvin who is to be seen as Jacob wrestling with the angel - Hagar herself - for her blessing. The title image may indeed structure the novel, but Laurence then makes certain that the reader will notice.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/9421
ISSN: 0380-6995
Appears in Collections:Hutcheon, Linda

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