Search For Self Marian Mcalpin English Literature Essay Free Essay

Marian McAlpin, the supporter in The Edible Woman, begins her narrative by associating in the first few lines that she is “ wholly right if anything I was experiencing more impassive than usual. ” The usage of the word “ impassive ” is interesting for at first glimpse it might be misread as “ solid, ” which is precisely the antonym of what Marian shortly will experience. On top of this, the existent definition of “ impassive ” is to be “ stolid and unemotional, ” which besides is in resistance to what Marian will shortly see as she searches for a definition of ego, one of the two chief subjects in The Edible Woman. Another funny observation is Marian ‘s guess that experiencing “ impassive ” ( another definition of this word is “ slow witted ” ) is, in her words, “ all right. ” The fact that Atwood imposes this word on Marian at the really beginning of the narrative suggests that the immature female supporter, in footings of her construct of ego, is, at best, a spot baffled.

Subsequently when she goes to work, Marian is asked to subscribe a pension program papers. This non merely depresses her, it throws her into a “ superstitious terror. ” In Marian ‘s head, she has now become committed to a future “ pre-formed ego ” who has been put, in the signifier of the signed papers, into a file in a cabinet and “ close away in a vault someplace and locked. ” Marian does non to the full understand her uneasiness concerning this papers, and she has problem fring herself of her frights that person has taken something off from her. She feels locked into a future ego from which she can non get away.

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Without consciously cognizing what she is making, Marian hunts for hints to her individuality by detecting the adult females around her. She has little in common with her roomie, Ainsley, whom she describes as a “ quick-change creative person ” who likes to have on apparels that are neon pink and excessively tight across her hips. When Marian considers speaking about her ain concerns about her hereafter to Ainsley, Marian hesitates, cognizing that Ainsley might mock her.

Neither does Marian place with her friend Clara, whom she has neglected because she feels Clara needs her merely as an entertainer, “ person who would listen to a narration of [ her ] jobs. ” Marian feels Clara is drawing on her in an effort to be rescued from ennui. Clara is pregnant, and Marian describes her as looking like a “ unusual vegetable growing, a bulblike tuber. ” Clara, Marian says, represented in her young person “ everyone ‘s ideal of semitransparent perfume-advertisement muliebrity. ” However, in Marian ‘s head, Clara is delicate, inactive, and impractical. Marian commiserations Clara. Every clip she encounters Clara, Marian stares at the wall or the ceiling, fighting to happen something to state. Clara is motherhood personified, an individuality that Marian would wish to set off for some clip, perchance shop someplace behind a glass wall where she could stare at it from clip to clip without taking portion. When she leaves Clara in the infirmary after the birth of Clara ‘s 3rd babe, Marian feels as if she has “ escaped, as if from a culvert or cave. She was glad she was n’t Clara. ”

Marian fares no better in seeking to place herself with the image that work forces have of adult females. Her fiancAA© , Peter, thinks of most adult females as “ marauders, ” while her friend Duncan thinks of adult females as nannies for work forces ; and Len, an old college friend of Marian ‘s, either uses adult females for sex or puts them on bases and adores them. Clara ‘s hubby, Joe, sees adult females as vulnerable victims, easy preyed upon.

Unable to happen a suited definition of her individuality outside of herself, Marian turns inward. But when she looks in a mirror, a symbol of turning in, she sees merely “ a obscure moistness signifier non rather focused something she could non quite see whatever it was in the glass would shortly be rather empty. ”

By the terminal of the narrative, although Marian has non wholly defined her individuality, she is at least cognizant of her demand to make so. In making the symbolic cake-woman, she attempts to free herself from the false and empty individualities that have prevailed throughout the narrative. She describes the cake-woman as “ an elegant old-timer China figurine its face doll-like and vacant. ”

A concluding discovery occurs when Marian regains her hungriness and starts devouring the cake-woman. When confronted by Ainsley ‘s comments that Marian is rejecting her muliebrity by eating the cake-woman, Marian responds: “ Nonsense, it is merely a bar. ”

Gender Roles

Closely related to her hunt for individuality is Marian ‘s effort to specify her function as a adult female. Initially she gets lost in other people ‘s definitions. Early on in their relationship, Peter defines Marian ‘s function as “ the sort of miss who would n’t seek to take over his life. ” In response, Marian says that Peter ‘s definition suits her. Their functions, she says, were defined at face value and every bit long as they saw each other infrequently, the “ veneer, ” or thin coating, would n’t hold a opportunity to rub off.

But who decides what functions are to be played? Are people, particularly adult females, ever traveling to be told from some external beginning that they have a function in life to play? Does a adult female have a life or is she merely an histrion in a drama? These are some of the inquiries that Atwood seems to be inquiring. It is the functions that begin to disintegrate as Marian and Peter ‘s relationship becomes more involved and as Marian attempts to step out of the drama that she and Peter have written.

Marian first notices a little deformation in their preconceived functions when Peter negotiations about things that Marian finds violative. She rationalizes that Peter is non moving like himself. She wants him to steal back into his function and speak in his “ normal voice. ” Conversely, when Marian Acts of the Apostless in a manner contrary to the function Peter has created for her, Marian says that he gives her “ a curious expression, as though he was disappointed with me. ”

One dark Marian lets travel of Peter and begins to run. She says, “ I had broken out ; from what or into what, I did n’t cognize. ” After interrupting off from him, Peter scolds Marian: “ Ainsley behaved herself decently, why could n’t you? The problem with you is you ‘re merely rejecting your muliebrity. ” Since Marian knows that Ainsley is playing a game to score a adult male into acquiring her pregnant, this statement of Peter ‘s is instead dry. However, despite the sarcasm, Marian does a complete turnaround and steal back into her function, yielding to Peter ‘s proposal of matrimony for grounds that may hold been “ a small inconsistent with [ her ] true personality, ” she says. Marian likes the security of holding a adult male make the major determinations in her life, of holding a adult male play the function of the supplier. She has sensed the confines of their role-playing, but she can non, at this point, see beyond them. The battle against those functions consumes her for the remainder of the narrative, stoping in an eventual, though slightly inactive, discovery.

Marian trials Peter, in the terminal, with the cake-woman. At the same clip, she is besides proving the function that she has been playing. “ If Peter found her cockamamie [ for doing the bar and inquiring him to eat it ] she would believe it, she would accept his version of herself. ” As she watches him, waiting for him to respond to the cake-woman, she thinks about how easy it is to see Peter ( every bit good as her role-playing ) as normal and safe, but the “ monetary value of this version of world was proving the other 1. ” In other words, the functions she and Peter had created were at odds with a deeper sense of herself. When she puts the cake-woman in forepart of Peter, she accuses him of seeking to destruct her. “ This is what you truly want, ” she tells him, mentioning to the cake-woman, the false image or the function that he has encouraged her to play. She wants him to eat the cake-woman and laugh at the drama. But alternatively, Peter does n’t look able to interrupt out of his function and seems incapable of seeing Marian outside of hers. She has changed, and he no longer recognizes her. After he leaves, Marian thinks of Peter as “ a manner that had gone out of manner. ”

Today, even though adult females have gained more rights and acknowledgment, the industrial universe is still really much a patriarchal society. Think about what a matriarchal society might be like, so discourse what you think the differences between the two societies would be in footings of employment and marriage.A adult female frequently has to take between maternity and a profession. If she wants both, she finds herself in a changeless conflict to run into the duties of both. If she chooses to work full clip, her kids are frequently left in day-care centres for long periods of clip. What do you see as the future solution for this job? Should one of the parents stay at place to raise the kids until they are at least of school age? Which one? And should at that place be pecuniary compensation for the stay-at-home parent? If so, where do the financess come from? Or should the authorities and businesscommunities work together to set up more accessible day-care centres? And how do you suggest day-care centres could be improved? For Peter ‘s party, Ainsley applies lip rouge, eyeliner, and false ciliums to Marian ‘s face. This application of cosmetics is an recognized pattern for adult females. Discourse how you think this pattern came to be accepted. What are the psychological deductions of adult females being encouraged to have on make-up? And why do you believe society-discourages work forces from have oning make-up? The construct of muliebrity can be so loosely defined that it includes images that range from being seductive to being submissive. How would you specify muliebrity today, and how do you believe that term has changed since your parents ‘ coevals, and since your grandparents ‘ clip?

Joyce Hart

Hart, a former college professor, is a free-lance author and editor who has written books for the survey of English every bit good as nonfiction articles for national magazines. In the undermentioned essay, she discusses the subjects of the hunt for ego and gender functions in Atwood ‘s novel.

Reading Margaret Atwood ‘s The Edible Woman is similar to eating a bean curd sandwich. Both the book and the sandwich Begin and terminal in the same manner, and the spirit of the book and the bean curd sandwich depend on the spices that are added to it. To depict Atwood ‘s The Edible Woman as a bean curd sandwich is non a unfavorable judgment. Or at least it is non a unfavorable judgment of Atwood ‘s authorship. After all, tofu is made from soya beans, one of the most wholly alimentary veggies that humanity has cultivated. The allusion to a bean curd sandwich is more of a review of the function of the reader. Read the book rapidly, and The Edible Woman is entertaining. Read the book more carefully, looking at Atwood ‘s usage of nutrient as metaphor, understanding the psychological deductions of eating upsets, and to the full recognizing feminist concerns, and The Edible Woman deepens with issues that are still relevant today.

First, there is the staff of life of the sandwich. This thought of a sandwich, in some ways, comes from Atwood herself. As Darlene Kelly states in her essay “ Either Way, I Stand Condemned, ” Atwood describes The Edible Woman as a circle in which the heroine ends where she began. The hunt for one ‘s topographic point, a repeating subject in all of Atwood ‘s fictional authorship, begins with this book, her first novel. But Marian McAlpin, the chief character in The Edible Woman, fails, harmonizing to Kelly, to “ clearly and unequivocally carve out such an residence. ” A possible ground for this failure, Kelly adds, may be that the book was “ written at a clip when what was incorrect with the old order had been spelled out but the options had non. ” So the reader is left without replies, like the supporter, at the terminal.

But the staff of life acts merely as the screen of the sandwich, and everyone knows non to judge a book by its screen. There is still the “ meat ” of the sandwich that must be examined. During the sixtiess, with its renewed involvement in the feminist motion thanks to books like Simone de Beauvoir ‘s The Second Sex, adult females were concentrating on what was losing in their lives. They questioned the functions of their female parents who, for the most portion, had non gone to college, who had non, except perchance during World War II, held occupations, and who, in their early mid-twentiess, were married and already had kids.

Kelly provinces that by the clip Atwood wrote The Edible Woman, matrimony had been critically examined and found wanting by feminist authors like Simone de Beauvoir. Although it was popular slang to impeach adult females of “ pin downing ” work forces into get marrieding them, or to specify a adult male as a “ good gimmick, ” adult females of the sixtiess were get downing to see that it was they who were being caught and trapped in the parturiency of matrimony. Kelly says, “ By curtailing a adult female to what de Beauvoir called ‘immanence, ‘ that is, the parturiency of her activity to place and household, matrimony was said to suppress the full deployment of a adult female ‘s endowments in the societal, political, and professional kingdom. ”

But what are the options? This is the inquiry that Atwood efforts, but fails, to reply, non because she falls short of her end, but instead because in that historical timeframe, there were no replies. It is this open-ended coda in The Edible Woman that becomes one of the book ‘s most absorbing elements. It is this unreciprocated inquiry that Atwood was smart plenty and weather sufficiency to go forth unreciprocated. It is this unreciprocated inquiry that non merely allows, but besides invites her readers and literary critics to add their ain spirits and spices to the sandwich.

To see Atwood ‘s book as a sandwich is non excessively far flung an thought, as nutrient is a really cardinal portion of The Edible Woman. Emma Parker states in her essay “ You Are What You Eat: The Politicss of Eating in the Novels of Margaret Atwood ” that in Atwood ‘s authorship, “ nutrient imagination saturates [ her ] novels and becomes the dominant metaphor the heroines use to depict people, landscape, and emotion. ” The first chapter of The Edible Woman, for case, opens in the kitchen with Marian doing breakfast. Before the terminal of this chapter Marian is hungry and eating once more. At the beginning of the 2nd chapter, Marian is at work, where she is being asked to try more nutrient. She besides describes the company where she works in footings of nutrient, such as it is layered “ like an ice pick sandwich. ” Before the 2nd chapter terminals, Marian goes to tiffin, where she talks to her friends about people who live in Quebec and eats excessively many murphies. And non to belabour the point, but merely to show the impregnation degree of nutrient and ingestion in The Edible Woman, in the 3rd chapter Marian is assigned the undertaking of taking a study about beer, is asked to compose a missive to a adult female who found a fly in her cereal, is turned down for a dinner day of the month by her soon-to-be fiancAA© , Peter, so as she is believing about what nutrient she has in the deep-freeze at place, she is interrupted by a phone call from a friend who invites her to dinner. And all of this nutrient talk occurs in merely the first 25 pages of the novel.

Not until Part Two of the novel, after Peter and Marian become engaged, does Marian hold her first existent trouble with nutrient. She realizes, of class, that if the job persists, it could take to her decease, but she feels powerless in happening a solution. Her organic structure acts on its ain will, as if Marian ‘s head has lost control over it. It is besides at this point in the narrative that Atwood changes the voice of the storyteller. She switches from first individual ( Marian ‘s voice ) to a third-person perceiver. With this structural alteration, Atwood distances the reader from Marian, merely as Marian ‘s organic structure distances itself from her head, merely as Marian distances herself from nutrient.

While Marian and Peter are sitting in a eating house, Marian looks at the steak on her home base non as a repast, but instead as a portion of a life mammal “ that one time moved and ate and was killed, knocked on the caput as it stood in a waiting line like person waiting for a tram. ” Not merely does Marian see it as a once-live animate being, she takes it one measure further. She personifies the steak, doing its history include the human action of waiting for a coach, something that Marian does about every twenty-four hours. This is the first intimation that Marian is get downing to experience like nutrient ; get downing to experience that she, excessively, is being consumed. In this same scene, merely as Marian pushes off from the steak, she besides senses her ain weakness and supposed lower status to Peter. “ She meant to bespeak by her tone of voice that her tummy was excessively bantam and incapacitated to get by with that huge measure of nutrient. Peter smiled and chewed, cheerily witting of his ain superior capacity. ”

At the clip Atwood wrote The Edible Woman, public consciousness of eating upsets like anorexia was negligible. Despite this deficiency of information, Atwood seems to hold intuitively made her ain decisions about the significance of adult females and their relationship to nutrient. Parker states that Atwood uses eating “ as a metaphor for power and [ it ] is used as an highly elusive agencies of analyzing the relationship between adult females and work forces. The powerful are characterized by their feeding and the powerless by their non-eating. ”

In the essay “ No Bread Will Feed My Hungry Soul: Anorexic Heroines in Female Fiction, ” Dr. Giuliana Giobbi states that “ anorectic misss are really unsure, asocial, basically diffident individuals who lack any power of enterprise. ” Dr. Giobbi continues that anorexia is an effort “ to get away from the adversities of big life. ” This turning off from the grownup universe can be seen in Marian when Peter proposes matrimony and subsequently asks her to take a day of the month for the nuptials. Marian ‘s response comes out impassively: “ I heard a soft flannelly voice I hardly recognized, stating, ‘I ‘d instead hold you decide that. I ‘d instead go forth the large determinations up to you. ‘ I was astounded at myself. I ‘d ne’er said anything remotely like that to him earlier. The amusing thing was I truly meant it. ”

David L. Harkness besides postulates that Marian ‘s loss of appetency is a symbolic turning off from the duties of big life. Harkness, in his essay “ Alice in Toronto: The Carrollian Intertext in The Edible Woman, ” compares Marian to Alice in their double descent into a fantasy universe where they both try to hedge the issues environing turning up and holding to do determinations. Harkness compares Marian to Alice but states that whereas Alice is “ everlastingly immature and can return to Wonderland without hazard, Marian is non a character in an piquant kids ‘s book. She does turn older, and though she may non needfully live merrily of all time after, she does pull off to accomplish some step of personal growing and psychic unity and therefore travel on to a happy stoping. ”

While Harkness believes Marian finally finds a happy stoping that stoping is non apparent in Atwood ‘s book. There is hope, nevertheless. She is, after all, eating once more. Not merely is she eating, she is devouring the image of muliebrity that she found, at last, so unreal. “ ‘I ‘ll get down with the pess, ‘ she decided. ” Then “ she plunged her fork into the carcase, neatly break uping the organic structure from the caput. ” So ends the unreal cake-woman, and so ends the book.

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