Margaret Atwood: Poet and Novelist

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Margaret Atwood (1939-…) is a Canadian poet, novelist, and critic. Atwood first gained recognition for her collection of poems The Circle Game (1966). Her many other books of poetry include The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1970), a verse biography of an early Canadian writer; Power Politics (1971), an investigation of the limits of male-female relationships; and Two-Headed Poems (1978), which includes poems about a mother and child. Her Selected Poems was published in 1978 and Selected Poems II in 1986.

Atwood gained a wide reputation as a novelist with Surfacing (1972), which is the story of a woman who searches in the world of nature for the meaning of her life. The Edible Woman (1969) is a satiric comedy about a woman whose personality is being destroyed by her relationship with her fiance. Lady Oracle (1976) is a mix of social satire, psychological analysis, and fantasy. Bodily Harm (1981) deals with a Canadian journalist and her experiences during a revolution in the Caribbean.

Atwood has written two dystopian novels—that is, novels that describe imaginary societies much worse than the real world. Both novels are set in the future. In one, The Handmaid’s Tale (1988), women living in the United States are stripped of all rights. In the other, Oryx and Crake (2003), civilization has mysteriously disappeared. Cat’s Eye (1988) is a detailed investigation of the forms of autobiography. The Robber Bride (1993) puckishly analyzes feminist politics by rewriting a Grimm’s fairy tale. Alias Grace (1996) is a psychological mystery. The Blind Assassin (2000) is a complex family chronicle that includes a science-fiction novel within the main story. The novel won the 2000 Booker Prize, the United Kingdom’s most important literary award. Atwood also wrote a picture book for children, Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes (2004).

Atwood’s stories have been collected in Dancing Girls (1977), Bluebeard’s Egg (1983), Wilderness Tips (1991), and Good Bones and Simple Murders (2001). Atwood’s selected literary essays were collected in Second Words (1982). She has written an influential book of criticism called Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature (1972

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