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The Edible Woman

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  The Edible Woman The Edible Woman is a 1969 novel that helped to establish Margaret Atwood as a prose writer of major significance. It is the stor of a o!ng woman whose sane str!ct!red cons!mer#oriented world starts to slip o!t of foc!s. $ollowing her engagement Marian feels her bodand her self are becoming separated. As Marian begins endowing food with h!man %!alitiesthat ca!se her to identif with it she finds herself !nable to eat repelled b metaphoricalcannibalism.&1' In a foreword written in 19(9 for the )irago edition of The Edible Woman Atwood described the wor* as protofeminist rather than feminist.&+'Atwood e,plores gender stereotpes thro!gh characters who strictl adhere to them -s!ch aseter or /!c0 and those who def their constraints -s!ch as Ainsle or !ncan0. Thenarrative point of view shifts from first to third person accent!ating Marian2s slowdetachment from realit. At the concl!sion first person narration ret!rns consistent with thecharacter2s willingness to ta*e control of her life again. $ood and clothing are major smbols!sed b the a!thor to e,plore themes and grant the reader insight on each of the characters2 personalities moods and motivations.3etting is !sed to identif differences between the characters4 for e,ample !ncan isenco!ntered in a m!ndane la!ndromat gloom theatre or slea5 hotel. In comparison eter inhabits genteel bars and a spar*ling new apartment. owever these changing environmentsare also !sed to e,plore different angles of e,istence contrasting a freer wilder glimpse of life with a civilised gilded cage. This highlights the diffic!lties presented to women in theera where freedom was snonmo!s with !ncertaint b!t marriage presented problems of itsown.This novel2s p!blication coincided with the rise of the women2s movement in 7orth America  b!t is described b Atwood as 8protofeminist8 beca!se it was written in 196&:' and th!santicipated second wave feminism.&;'The Edible Woman has been adapted for stage b <anadian plawright ave <arle.<ontents Plot summary Marian McAlpin wor*s in a mar*et research firm writing s!rve %!estions and sampling prod!cts. 3he shares the top#floor apartment of a ho!se in Toronto with her roommateAinsle and has a dependable -if boring0 bofriend eter. Marian also *eeps in to!ch with<lara a friend from college who is now a constantl pregnant ho!sewife.Ainsle anno!nces she wants to have a bab = and intends to do it witho!t getting married.When Marian is horrified Ainsle replies 8The thing that r!ins families these das is theh!sbands.8 /oo*ing for a man who will have no interest in fatherhood she sets her sights onMarian2s 8womani5er8 friend /en who is infamo!s for his relationships with o!ng naivegirls.At wor* Marian is assigned the tas* of gathering responses for a s!rve abo!t a new tpe of  beer. While wal*ing from ho!se to ho!se as*ing people their opinions she meets !ncan anEnglish grad!ate st!dent who intrig!es her with his atpical and eccentric answers.  Marian later has a dinner date with eter and /en d!ring which Ainsle shows !p dressed asa virginal schoolgirl = the first stage of her plan to tric* /en into impregnating her. Marianfinds herself disassociating from her bod as eter reco!nts a gor rabbit h!nt to /en>8After a while I noticed that a large drop of something wet had materiali5ed on the table. I po*ed it with m finger and sm!dged it aro!nd a little before I reali5ed with horror that it wasa tear.8&:'Marian r!ns from the resta!rant and is chased down b eter in his car. ?naware of Ainsle2s plan to get pregnant b /en eter chides 8Ainsle behaved herself properl wh co!ldn2to!@8At the end of the night eter proposes to her. When as*ed to choose a date for the wedding Marian slips into !ne,pected passivit>82Id rather have o! decide that. Id rather leave the big decisions !p to o!. I wasastonished at mself. Id never said anthing remotel li*e that to him before. The f!nn thingwas that I reall meant it.8&:'Marian and !ncan have a s!rprise meeting in a la!ndromat engage in aw*wardconversation then share a *iss. 3hortl afterwards Marian2s problems with food begin whenshe finds herself empathi5ing with a stea* that eter is eating imagining it 8*noc*ed on thehead as it stood in a %!e!e li*e someone waiting for a streetcar.8 After this she is !nable toeat meat = anthing with 8bone or tendon or fiber8.Ainsle2s plot to sed!ce /en s!cceeds. When /en later learns that Ainsle is pregnant he tal*sto Marian who confesses that pregnanc was Ainsle2s plan all along. /en reveals hischildhood fear of eggs and from that point Marian can no longer face her soft#boiled egg inthe morning. 3hortl thereafter she is !nable to eat vegetables or ca*e.eter decides to throw a part to which Marian invites 8the office virgins8 from her wor* !ncan and !ncan2s roommates. eter s!ggests that Marian b! herself a new dress for his part = something less 8mo!s8 than her normal wardrobe. Marian s!bmits to his wishes and b!s a daring red dress. Before the part Ainsle does Marian2s ma*e!p incl!ding falseeelashes and a big lipstic*ed smile. When !ncan arrives he sas 8Co! didn2t tell me it wasa mas%!erade. Who the hell are o! s!pposed to be@8 e leaves and Marian follows. Theend !p going to a slea5 hotel where the have !nsatisfing se,. The ne,t morning the goo!t to brea*fast and Marian finds that she cannot eat anthing.After !ncan leaves Marian reali5es that eter is metaphoricall devo!ring her. To test him she ba*es a pin* ca*e in the shape of a woman and dares him to eat it. 8This is what o!reall want8 she sas offering the ca*e woman as a s!bstit!te to him feeding !pon her. eter leaves dist!rbed. Marian eats the ca*e herself.Marian ret!rns to her first person narrative in the closing pages of the boo*. !ncan shows !pat her apartment4 Marian offers him the remains of the ca*e which he polishes off. 82Than* o! 2 he said lic*ing his lips. 2It was delicio!s.28  Characters Marian MacAlpin is the protagonist and the first#person narrator d!ring art Dne and artThree of the novel.Ainsle Tewce is Marian2s roommate.eter Wollander is Marian2s bofriend and later fianc./en 3lan* is a bachelor friend of Marian2s from college.<lara Bates is another friend from college4 <lara drops o!t second ear to marr Foe and has :children!ncan is a grad!ate st!dent with whom Marian has an affair./!c is one of three 8office virgins8Emm is one of three 8office virgins8Millie is one of three 8office virgins8Mrs. Bog!e$ischer 3mthe is one of !ncan2s roommate.The /andlad is Marian and Ainsle2s land lord alligoricall representing traditional femaleideals. ThemesLoss of identity  - search of herself 0 Marian2s ref!sal to eat can be viewed as her resistance to being coerced into a more feminine role. In a description of eter2s apartment Mariandescribes the 8cl!tter of raw materials8 that had thro!gh 8digestion and assimilation8 becomethe walls of the lobb. 3he sees that constr!ction precedes cons!mptionthe bod2s assimilation of raw materials -food0 is analogo!s to the social bod2s assimilationand processing of women into sociall acceptable feminine s!bjects. B not eating Marianref!ses to ta*e in the raw materials !sed to re#constr!ct her into a role of domesticit.&' Thisstr!ggle is made e,plicit when one of !ncan2s roommates e,po!nds on Alice2s Advent!res inWonderland as having a 8se,!al#identit crisis8 then goes on to describe the str!ct!re of bothAlice and The Edible Woman> 8Dne se,!al role after another is presented &to the heroine' b!tshe seems !nable to accept an of them.8 Marian is shaped first b her parents2 plans for her f!t!re then b eter2s.&6' Dnce married Marian fears eter2s strong personalit will obliterateher own fragile identit. This s!bconscio!s perception of eter as predator is manifested bMarian2s bod as an inabilit to eat as a gest!re of solidarit with other pre.&(' $ollowingher engagement the switch to third#person narrative shows that Marian2s stor is controlled b someone other than Marian herself4 following Marian2s regaining of identit Atwoodret!rns to first#person narration.&;' Alienation In the transitions from first person to third person Atwood demonstrates Marian2s growingalienation from her bod. At the compan <hristmas part Marian loo*s aro!nd at the other women thin*ing 8Co! were green and then o! ripened> became mat!re. resses for themat!re fig!re. In other words fat.8&:' Marian ref!ses to become fat -i.e. mat!re0 whichwo!ld transform her into a woman and as s!ch be constrained b a se,ist c!lt!re. Marian istherefore alienated from nat!re as she places herself o!tside the process of mat!ration.&G'All!sions and references to other wor*sAll!sions to Atwood2s personal life  Atwood wor*ed for <anadian $acts a Toronto#based s!rve research firm from 196: to196; fact#chec*ing and editing s!rve %!estionnaires. <anadian $acts had a similar wor* environment to the fictional 3emo!r 3!rves where Marian wor*ed.&;' In Margaret Atwood>A <ritical <ompanion <oo*e arg!es that the characters of eter /!c and Mrs. 3ims weredrawn from people in Atwood2s life = eter being a fictionali5ed version of Atwood2s bofriend -also an amate!r photographer0 and later fianc. It is also li*el that the name of her roommate and friend Ainsle was inspired b Annesle all at )ictoria ?niversit in the?niversit of Toronto to which Atwood belonged. This is an all#female residence b!ildingwhich was b!ilt in 19H: and was the first !niversit residence b!ilding for women in <anada.&;' Metaphor of Body in Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman The Edible Woman was written in the 196Hs when the societ was dominated b men. In this period of time post#war feminist movements were tring to con%!er the patriarchal model of famil and femininit and to distance themselves from the position of cons!mers. Traditionalgender roles s!ch as mother wife ho!se*eeper or lover were improper for modern women.The loo*ed for some options b!t the onl one which was delivered b the social sstem wasa position of a wor*er st!c* in a dead#end job. In the absence of an realistic possibilities tochange their condition women !ttered their objections frailt and an,iet thro!gh their o!tloo* toward food and as a res!lt thro!gh their bodies. This condition led to the rise of feelings of fr!stration anger and !nf!lfilment among feminists. The novel2s p!blicationcoincided with the rise of the women2s movement in 7orth America b!t it is described bAtwood as 8protofeminist8 beca!se it was written in 196 and th!s anticipated feminism bseveral ears. The female protagonist Marian MacAlpin str!ggles between the role thatsociet has imposed !pon her and her personal definition of self4 and food becomes thesmbol of that str!ggle and her event!al rebellion. Margaret Atwood emplos an eatingdisorder in her novel The Edible Woman as a metaphor of a revolt and protest. Atwood in aninterview sas>Its a h!man activit that has all *inds of smbolic connotations depending on the societ andthe level of societ. In other words what o! eat varies from place to place how we feelabo!t what we eat varies from place to place how we feel abo!t what we eat varies fromindivid!al as well as from place to place. If o! thin* of food as coming in vario!s categories>sacred food ceremonial food everda food and things that are not to be eaten forbiddenfood dirt food if o! li*e# for the anore,ic all food is dirt food. -lons ++G0The main protagonist of the novel Marian MacAlpin is a o!ng tri!mphant woman wor*ingin mar*et research. er job private life and social relations seem to be idealistic b!t whenshe finds o!t her bofriends cons!mer nat!re d!ring a tal* in the resta!rant she cant eat.Marians initial lac* of desire for food finall leads to an eating disorder ver similar toanore,ia nervosa which is her bods response to the societs effort of imposing its policon the heroine. Moreover the three parts of the novel propose the co!rse of this eating
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