“If heaven is a good place and preferable to the earth, why is murdering good people bad?” (32)
As someone who isn’t religious, this quote caught my eye. I don’t know much about Christianity, but I do know things like heaven and hell. I had to stop and read this quote a couple of times before I fully grasped what it meant. It altered my lens on how I saw religion and showed me that philosophies even when simplified can have multiple more layers of depth and meaning behind it. Although at first glance this passage seems sadistic and morbid, the more I think about it, the more real it gets. This connects to our discussions in class where we talked about how western culture is more about the individual whereas eastern cultures value more of a whole. Some eastern countries are so bound to their idea of belief and religion they don’t see outside of it. However, someone with a western point of view, might question this idea and put a spin on it, creating controversy and sometimes it leads to situations as tragic and horrific as suicide bombings. We don’t know the thoughts of the people behind these incidents, but thoughts like these could be running through their heads. (this is not saying ALL eastern countries and ALL western countries have the same outlook, this is merely generalized).
This passage was inserted near the beginning of the book. The context behind it is that she had one of these thoughts with her friends in her teen ages. During this time, Canada was strongly religious meaning Atwood was raised in a religious environment. From what we’ve learned before, I know it was hard for anyone to speak up or speak out during this time. She was told to be quiet and to keep thoughts like that to herself at the time. The values of Canada back then were strongly one sided and anyone who went against it wasn’t necessarily punished but was told to just follow along and not to ask questions. This text also shows that, now people can talk about these things, people can start to ask questions that might never have an answer and have a healthy discussion about it. Canadians have the right to practice any religion or culture they have and to inquire and learn about others.
“Six children, five who lived. / she never said anything about those births and the one dead; / her mouth closed on a pain / that could neither be told nor ignored.” (49)
I found this passage interesting because the poetic flow and the way she used her words caught my eye. She formed them in such a way where its so simplistic yet the power behind the text draws a sophisticated image. I had to go back and read this passage over and over before I fully understood it. Margaret Atwood has a way with words where she writes these grim poems and pieces of literature but with more analyzing it creates more layers. The idea behind this quote is that her maternal grandmother never talked about the pain. It was never discussed in her family how difficult some things are and they tend to only look at the good things, neglecting everything else. This bit reminded me of the one-child policy. The ideas are completely different but they both touch on post partum and how mothers of that era had underlying issues that weren’t always surfaced.
The views of Canada at that time were that the women were to raise the children, teach them life skills while the men went out and provided for the family. At that time, this was completely normal. Mothers were supposed to be the caring figures, being calm and soothing the children, unable to speak up about their own concerns. Margaret Atwood’s maternal grandmother watched five of her children grow old and one die. This incident must have a toll on a persons mental and physical well being, but she couldn’t speak up because she knew as soon as she told it, it would change everyone’s outlook on her. The only foreseeable solution at the time was to stay quiet, to keep it to herself unless someone asked. The views on situations like this have changed today in Canada. Canada is relatively a pro choice society. We hear the voices of mothers and their stories, both good and bad. We can provide resources for abortions or miscarriages.
“Throughout these years, Atwood’s commitment to her craft and vocation, as well as that sheer momentum she managed to maintain were daunting to witness […] it was as if, because she had chosen literature and the arts over the sciences as her family might expected, shea had to justify herself.” (75)
I’ve never been in these shoes myself, but I connected with this part of the book. My parents support me in everything I do and always tell me I have the choice and if I am happy, they are more than willing to support me. But I still feel the underlying pressure to go into a field of science, or medicine, or something that will guarantee me money in the future. This isn’t my parents’ fault; it isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s just the values that have been held in Chinese culture and the stereotypes that I’ve heard so often that they’ve subconsciously stuck with me. From what I’ve read, Margaret Atwood’s family was a supportive family. They grew up tight and always went on trips together. Yet, even with all that past connection, she still felt the need to prove herself even when no one in her family was doubting her.
This passage shows that during this era in Canada, making money and sustaining yourself still wasn’t easy. Atwood chose to follow her passion rather than a ‘set’ future and she had to carry more burden just to show that she wouldn’t fail. She worked harder than ever and got lost in the vortex of her own thought. It represents how big of an impact social influence has on people back then and now. Students these days have a lot more freedom with what they want to do in the future and are given a plethora of opportunities; yet I still know so many people who want to be doctors or lawyers, not because it’s a passion, but because its ‘guaranteed’ money.
“Land of the septic tank,
Home of the speedboat,
Where still the four-wheel drive
Wanders at will,
Blue lake and tacky shore,
I will return once more:
This poem stood out amongst her other ones. All of the other bits of literature I’ve read in the book up to this point were grim and sent shivers down my spine. This one was a little more playful and lighter on its toes. I read it and related it back to my everyday life. I thought of the gorgeous waters and mountains of BC (even though she wrote this about the east coast). The way the words were used could be used to describe any forested area, but it still hit home. It reminded me of all the trips I took with my family to Chilliwack and Banff.
This passage shows the value of home. It shows how important it was back then to hold land and property. The places where one grew up was the place that they felt most at peace, especially because this was an era after a war so the idea of having property and home was soothing to all. It also plays off of how during this time, a lot of people’s childhoods were spent in the wilderness. It was spent helping parents sustain their lives, farming etc. Now, Canadian values lies in home is where the heart is. So many people in Canada aren’t born in Canada yet they call it home. The beautiful scenery and long drives are what bring people comfort, just like before.
“We ladies were no threat. There was a joke among the woman students that the best way to pass your roals was to stuff a pillow up your dress.” (93)
I was stunned by this passage because it was written about her time at Harvard. It talks about how no one ever found any of the women on campus intimidating, but as soon as they were pregnant, everything changes. The professors would feel bad not passing them because it was during this time that views were shifting, and women were slowly starting to get more rights. This connects to any concept where a new demographic gets new rights. For example, lowering the voting age. Many politicians were terrified of this idea, thinking it would destroy the demographic system they had at hand. Pierre Trudeau took a step forward and at frit things were rocky but eventually it evened out for the better. However, there was a slip of time where people feared the idea of this change. People fear the concept of things not going as routine, hence when not controlled it can lead to catastrophes such as the American Revolution.
I stated mot of the values in the paragraph above but to summarize, the values at that time were that education could be accessed by all, but there was still differentiation between women and men. People at that time had equal outcome but not necessarily equal opportunity. Women were still looked at as caregivers, just disguised as someone seeking education. However, today in Canada the playing field has been somewhat evened out. Women who are pregnant seeking for education aren’t looked at any differently than anyone else in the class.
One can take all the information and knowledge their environment has given them and turn it into a completely different outcome than others were thinking.
From what I’ve read so far, although there were hints that Margaret Atwood was a talented writer very little thought she would carry it out as a career, herself included. There was a slump in her education where she felt like her words meant nothing. However, she took the ideologies of her environment and picked herself up and pursued what she wanted to do. She didn’t turn on any of the values or morals her family held, she merely just shifted them in a different direction. I can apply this to my own life because it shows me that things are constantly in change and I’ll never fully know what I want to do until I’m doing it. I’m not betraying my family or my friends if I do something that doesn’t appeal to them. In the long run, it’s my life and if what I do makes me feel like a better person, I should have that simple right and carry on.