Margaret Atwood

The treatment of the female protagonists in Bodily Harm and The Handmaid's Tale

by Justine
the woman
they did not kill
Instead they sewed her face
shut, closed her mouth
to a hole the size of a straw,
and put her back on the streets,
a mute symbol

This essay will examine the female protagonists of Margaret Atwood's Bodily Harm and The Handmaid's Tale. Rennie, of Bodily Harm and Offred, of The Handmaid's Tale are both women in their thirties used by the author to explore how they react to 'oppression in all its manifestations, both physical and psychological' [1]. Atwood, in her later novels and poems, seems to focus on the struggle in which she sees men and women as being caught up: 'Who can do what to whom and get away with it.'

Bodily Harm 'focuses on the contrast between affluent thinking and the brutal reality of power and sexual politics.' [2] The protagonist Rennie is a 'lifestyle journalist' who has just had a mastectomy. Atwood traces her internal torment in dealing with this, her troubled childhood, her relationship with men and a violent society at large.

In Mark Evans's essay, Versions of history: The Handmaid's Tale and its Dedicatees [3] we see that Atwood derives Gilead from the stark Puritanism that worked on strict ideology and oppressive ordering. It is a society constructed by men such as the Commander who lay down the rules by which the women's lives are defined by their roles. Offred's role is that of procuring children for couples who are unable to have their own. Following the words straight from the Old Testament, this was seen as absolutely correct and the handmaid was to consider nothing more than this defined role given her.

Atwood's epigraphs always give much insight into the books she writes, but in also looking at to whom she dedicates The Handmaid's Tale we find a certain Mary Webster. She is the ancestor of the author who was persecuted by the Puritans for dabbling in the occult. This is relevant since like those of Rennie and Offred, Mary Webster's story is one of persecution and escape - even if but short-lived [4].

Both Bodily Harm and The Handmaid's Tale are a warning to young women of the 'post-feminist' 1980s and after, who began taking for granted those rights that had been secured to women. The woman's passive acceptance takes various forms in Rennie and Offred throughout the two novels.

In The Handmaid's Tale, Offred looks back at her life before Gilead and remembers those fighters like her mother (an active feminist) who took part in the making of their society. When things began to crumble and Gilead was still forming, Offred chose to evade the responsibility and be an observer, and tried to fill her life with distractions. Thus, those marches and meetings attempting to take action against what was to be, were made up of small numbers since she (like may others) would rather wait and see the outcome rather than make it happen: 'We lived as usual by ignoring. Ignoring isn't the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.' [5] (The Handmaid's Tale p.66).

Due to the lack of attention paid, Offred's society is faced with the complete loss of freedom. Where Offred previously chose not to speak, she is now forbidden any kind of communication. Gilead's women have to lead a life bound by slavery. They are stripped of all personal possessions, stripped of their families, their memories and finally their identities. They are all replaceable, categorized objects, made to wear uniforms and often named to be defined in relation to men. A man's wife would quite simply be a Wife but more significantly, the handmaids who's names indicated which man they were currently rendering service: Fred's handmaid was thus Of-fred, Warren's was Ofwarren and so on. It is significant that out of all the women mentioned, only Moira - Offred's college friend - seems to keep her real name. She is the only one who will not be silenced and is, with Offred's mother, the other rebel in the novel.

The stratification of women into their different roles helps keep them in their respective controlled places. Rita, one of the Marthas who live at the Commanders house, shows no sympathy for Offred's situation but identifies with another Martha who has been accidentally shot. Later on we will also see Serena Joy, the Commander's Wife acting in a similar manner. The segregation and powerlessness of all their positions prevents them from recognizing their common enemy: masculine power.

Offred now must lead a life of forced compliance. Not adhering to this would mean serious, even fatal consequences. Her life is filled with the mundane things which feminist movements have tried to make women look beyond. Her role as a handmaid is to wait around until she can do her Commander and his wife 'service'. The waiting is interrupted by shopping, baths, listening to the Marthas' gossip, whispering to other handmaids and the occasional event of Birth Day parties or such. Significantly, section IV of The Handmaid's Tale is called 'Waiting Room'. 'Waiting' underlines Gilead's objectification of women as passive sexual commodities. However, Offred does have a tinge of rebellion in her that occasionally emerges and gives us hope.

Rennie's submissiveness in Bodily Harm takes a different shape and before going into this area it would be best to look at the specifics of her relationship with Jake. Women are largely treated as objects in the novel. In the woman's objectification, the female is nothing but the body. And the female body is representative of sexuality. From this stems Jake's need to reshape Rennie into the image of what is taken to be the eroticized female.

The epigraph from John Berger's Ways of Seeing states: 'A man's presence suggests what he is capable of doing to you or for you . . . By contrast a woman's presence defines what can and cannot be done to her.'

In fact, Rennie takes the stance of the non-feminist, quite satisfied with Jake complimenting her 'fantastic ass'. After killing her plants, remodelling her apartment, and her look, he stages the ultimate erotic object: the perfect sexual poses as she parades in sensual lingerie. Everything seems to underline the power relations between male and female: he asks and she complies. He extends his daytime job to their relationship: 'It took her more time than she should have to realise that she was one of the things Jake was packaging.'

Similarly, the Commander in The Handmaid's Tale makes Offred the embodiment of his desires on an outing to Jezebel's (a brothel of sorts) - she must wear a glittery evening gown and wear make-up. This outing however, does not finish off with the perfect sexual encounter. It is for him to see that the principles on which Gilead is founded have succeeded in divesting women of all their sexuality and he remains quite disappointed thanks to the very success of his aims.

Returning to Rennie, this passive adherence to Jake's every whim eventually drives him away. After her mastectomy, things begin to go sour between them. But Jake does not lose interest because of her mastectomy, as she would have herself believe. He loses interest because she is so passive and accepting of his oppressive and abusive nature. Even when Jake leaves her, she takes it upon herself to be the absolute realization of Berger's epigraph - she watches him leave, sitting in her kitchen. In doing this Rennie tries to embody the victimized woman, the innocent one in a perverse world of wrong-doers.

Jocasta probably explains it best when she tells Rennie what men seem to want. To them, woman is but a sexual object to be completely possessed. Their prime concern is to take sex from the woman in a sadistic manner. The woman can be somewhat consenting but not too much so in order for the man to feel like he is in some sort of a battle for what he desires and that he will ultimately leave the woman with a feeling of defeat. Therefore, Jake stages sexual encounters where Rennie is cast as submissive victim of forced sex' [6]. She is victim of Jake's stunts as stalker, rapist, and perpetrator. But even though Rennie comforts herself by thinking that he wouldn't do it in 'reality', it is this looming need to feel that sex amongst other things 'is something he could win at'.

Rennie's concept of reality is what lies at the core of her tragedy. The narrative seems to aim towards forcing Rennie to see what she has for too long tried to ignore. Every time she is in a personal crisis which requires her involvement, she detaches herself by trying to turn the event into some piece for a magazine, using dark humour to evade actually thinking about things too much. After her mastectomy, she walks home, thinking of possible titles that might suit this sort of topic. To counteract the shocking incident of a man who breaks into her apartment leaving a rope on her bed, she tries to take on a write-up on pornography. When things start to take their toll, to escape from her all-too-real reality, she opts for a travel article on a 'paradise' island. But Atwood's paradises are never actually what they set out to be and confrontation inevitably returns. She will have to come to see the reality.

The articles she chooses to take up are in themselves a form of escapism. She opts to dedicate herself to superficial 'lifestyle' writing and evades the truth; what ultimately art is meant to portray. She refuses to see and only looks at the surface of things. This is of course one of the first things she learnt during her stern upbringing in Griswold: 'how to look at things without touching them'.

Minnow, one of the politicians on St. Antoine plays a significant part in guiding Rennie into touching things, into realizing the core of things, the ugly truth:

there are still things that are inconceivable . . . Here nothing is unconceivable. I wish you to write about it... all I ask you to do is look . . . Look with your eyes open and you will see the truth of the matter. Since you are a reporter, it is your duty to report.

The reality that Atwood points at is the male violence against women which seems to have been brought out 'to counterbalance women's recent self-assertion' [7]. Although this isn't wholly true in Rennie, as we have just seen, this self-assertion is understandable when we take women's progress in the last few decades. Nonetheless, men's behaviour, as brought out in the novels, takes on a chilling aspect.

In Jake we find the sexual predator. He is depicted as a beast ready to pounce on his prey - his 'narrow muzzle, grinning like a fox', his teeth 'flawless except for the long canines'. Jake himself tells Rennie that he is 'an animal in the dark'. The predator is also a watcher and one of the two pictures Jake puts up in their apartment is interpretative of woman: 'Enigma', which shows a woman tied up by material with her breasts, thighs and buttocks showing. It reflects the voyeuristic attitude of men towards women, with overtones of sadistic control.

Rennie represents all women who, through the influence of culture, have become passive and allow themselves to be taken advantage of by men whom they are anxious to please. She allows herself to fulfil the male desire, that exhibitionist object to fill the man's gaze. She is in fact observed and she feels observed by the intruder who seems to know her and once again turns her into an object of desire, an attempt to visually control her feminine sexuality.

The kind of image that Jake forces upon Rennie can be seen in The Handmaid's Tale. Here though, the women of Gilead are a dramatization of women who, 'bound in a master-slave relationship, are forced to consent to femininity' [8]. This femininity is not sexual but is essentially their biological function.

Women and children are defined by their bodily functions and dysfunction (Unwomen, Unbabies) in contrast to men who are in absolute control and seemingly flawless. The sterility is a problem in women, and it is considered an abomination to state otherwise. Offred begins to feel a disjunction between her self and her body. Her body is to her nothing more than a 'container', she nothing more than a 'two-legged womb'. She looks at her body whilst bathing with a feeling of unfamiliarity. She watches the ritual insemination ceremony with the Commander and his wife in a detached way. She is capable of stepping out of the picture and commenting ironically, as though the body that belongs to her between the Commander and his wife has nothing to do with her.

The concept of the detached body comes in repeatedly in Bodily Harm. It is represented in the second picture that Jake hangs up in the apartment wherein a woman sprawled on a 1940s sofa is seen separated from her head due to the angle from which it is taken. This image presents the female in terms of a body rather than in terms of a face, once again, the body comes to be a replaceable object and the subject (the head) denied.

The disconnection is rooted in Rennie's mind. Not only does she imagine Jake's lover as 'a headless body', but also feels this alienation with her own body. After her mastectomy, she regards the operation very little in terms of a salvation but more as an evil and violation by man, her body and self cut away from each other marked by male 'probers, the labellers and cutters'. It is significant that the surgery and removal is that of the breast - an eroticized body part thus enforcing the idea of man preying on the female as sexual object only.

Since Jake had seen her in completely sexual terms, she initially turns to Daniel (her surgeon), the male protector, who is seen in contrast to Jake the predator. He possesses the healing touch that Rennie comes to obsess about in his hands and her want and need for them to touch her. He saved her once from the cancer, could he now reconcile her self with her body? But their sexual encounter, after much hand-holding and moral dilemmas, does not tear her out of the darkness and insecurity that overwhelmed her after the operation. She feels that she saved him in some way. Subsequently, she feels violated, victimized, raped once again since in his ordinariness Daniel still manages to take something of her which she had not expected. He too has 'won'. Her fantasy is unfulfilled. Daniel can now be paralleled with the man with the rope. He is the man with the scalpel mutilating the female body.

It is Paul who eventually rescues Rennie, who 'gives her back her body'. Throughout the text she imagines herself drifting in and out of her body, sometimes detached, hovering over the room. She cannot face contact. When with Jake, she is scared of what his reaction will be. She plans and replans how she will behave in certain situations. Since her operation she has been fragmented and Paul undeniably saves her in this sense.

In looking at the perpetrator in Rennie's apartment, we do feel he is sadistic, yet, he is at the same time harmless in his Ovaltine-making. Rennie deals with this intrusion by putting the event in the context of a game called Cluedo, where she imagines him to be another character in the game. Opposed to Col. Mustard, in the ballroom with the revolver, the faceless stranger becomes: 'Mr. X, in the bedroom, with the rope.' (Bodily Harm p.41). Yet again, she evades reality.

We can see the parallel between Rennie's Mr. X and Offred's Commander in his invitation to play Scrabble. Rather than a direct confrontation, the seemingly harmless word game (like the Ovaltine-making) unnerves the reader since we cannot quite classify the men as menacing. In accepting the meeting, Offred is still risking her life - if found she would be sent to the Colonies which is a definite death sentence. But still, declining the Commander would be confronting the man with the real power. This is a no-win situation. Still she faces what has happened. Offred indulges in a little rebellion and takes this chance to express herself since she is finally given the chance to do so. The game demonstrates the danger of rebellious speech: 'This is freedom, an eyeblink of it. Limp, I spell. Gorge, what a luxury.' [9] (The Handmaid's Tale p. 149).

With his lack of identity, the man with the ropes takes different forms; from the sadistic island police to the various men with whom Rennie is romantically involved. But every attempt that Rennie makes at actually identifying the man with the rope fails her. She tries to identify him as Jake, as Daniel, as Paul, until, terrifyingly, she begins to realize that this facelessness is the possibility of any male in society: he is an 'agent of male oppression' [10]. He represents the potential in all men to brutalize women. This is not the individual brutality of a certain person inflicted upon another but the patriarchal structure. It is the need for male dominance and female subordination.

Even when we take Paul, who reconciles Rennie's body and self, he too is typically male. His taste for danger fits him neatly into the role of renegade hero. He lives on the edge, he deals drugs, he rescues maidens in distress. The reasons for his actions are purely amusement. Rennie points out 'the truth about knights': 'the maidens were only an excuse. The dragon was the real business.' In his attempt to save Rennie during the uprisings at St. Agathe, his mission fails and she remains imprisoned. For the rest of the novel nobody knows what becomes of him, just as nobody really knew where he had come from. Rennie's attempts at having him disclose anything about his life fail. The photos she finds reveal little and she must take that little to make him any more -than a one-dimensional figure. In this way, we can also equate him with the faceless stranger with the rope.

The other men in Rennie's childhood are typical of Atwood's male characters. The father is both physically and emotionally absent. The grandfather is both the mixture of the heroic and kind doctor as well as the violent and brutal man.

The list of one-dimensional men continues in The Handmaid's Tale. The Commander refuses to answer the questions posed to him by Offred in any depth, very much like Paul does. Offred's husband Luke is only depicted through Offred's fragmented memories. What is interesting in Luke is that when Gilead first deprived women of their economic independence, he expressed no particular outrage at the new laws. Offred however feels this lack of independence as another physical disjunction: 'I feel like somebody cut off my feet.' Luke unfortunately belittles these feelings - 'It's only a job.' Moreover, he insists on making love to her despite her not wanting to. In his persistence, he internalizes the new legal system of Offred as his property.

Rennie treats relationships with irony in her little articles on how to combat boredom in a relationship, but paradoxically also fantasizes about taking on Jake's role in altering the appearance of men with her friend Jocasta: 'Pick a man, any man, and find the distinguishing features. The eyebrows? The nose? The body? If this man were yours, how would you do him over?' Despite her attempt at being or seeming to take on the role of power, Rennie does not actually go as far as Jocasta whose 'drain-chain' jewellery is an absolute mockery of the female sexual slave. She has no qualms about seeing men as little more than sexual commodities, to be used and passed on. When Rennie repeats Jocasta's idea of men and women swapping sex for a day in order to see how either would like to be treated, Jake's answer allows the reader to peek into Jake's perception of his female-male relationships: 'The women would say, Now I've got you, you prick. Now it's my turn . . . They'd all become rapists.' In inverting this to reality, we can only see it as man actually acknowledging playing the part of the empowered rapist and the female the victim. In Jake's eyes, the reversal of the sexes would give a female a 'go' at what they have to suffer.

The notion of the oppressive male is ingrained into Rennie. Her thoughts are full of symbols that show her fear of her disease-ridden body. It isn't however the actual fear of the disease as much as the obsessive feeling that she has been mutilated - her body fragmented, punished by the patriarchal society. This stems from her Griswold upbringing where what is seen as 'sexually liberated' in Toronto is believed to be permissive and loose and must be punished in that strict Puritanical setting. Sexually liberated Rennie must be subjected to the potential sadism of the male in her relationship with Jake and must face Griswold's disapproving attitude from the Englishwoman at the hotel in St. Antoine in reaction to Paul's advances. Her Griswold upbringing and the stress put on being 'decent' bring her to blame for herself the man with the rope. She feels responsible for having in some way led him to this, provoked him, as she is sure the policeman tries to insinuate. She got what she deserved.

Through Lora, the hand imagery as seen in Daniel, and Rennie's grandmother, re-emerges in Lora's own grubby, nibbled hands. Rennie refuses to touch them or have them touch her, but this displaces her anxieties about her own gnawed scarred wound onto Lora. Since Lora is ultimately punished in the final scenes for her uncontrolled sexuality, the cancer must therefore be Rennie's deserved punishment.

In The Handmaid's Tale, it seems that women are doubly punished as they have absolutely no means of escape. Offred is forced to go for medical check-ups to ensure that she is still 'biologically functional'. She has already begun to hate her body - her monthly menstruation is seen as a failure to have done her job, bringing a risk of being branded an Unwoman and banished to the Colonies. But even more threatening is the male power opposed to her absolute powerlessness which faces her at each angle. Her doctor offers to 'help' during one of her check-ups but if caught this would be fatal to her. However, the doctor ultimately remains in power since he may chose to fake her tests proving her sterile anyway. She has no hope or choice and men seem to enforce their will onto the women for the pure satisfaction of being able to do so.

Lora's stepfather is another embodiment of the abusive male: 'He didn't hit me because I was bad, like I used to think. He hit me because he could get away with it and nobody could stop him.' There seems to be a particular 'type' of victim that Rennie describes when leafing through the detective novel that Paul hands her. Rennie can guess who the victims will be - they are sexually provocative women who are described as blondes with 'mouths like red gashes and swelling breasts' and 'tempestuous redheads with eyes of green smouldering fire'. These seemingly deserve to be punished for their open way and Lora fits into this category and so her eventual death is already culturally predetermined.

The last poignant image used by Atwood that we shall refer to is that of pornography. In it she sees the woman as acquiescent in her submissive position. In The Handmaid's Tale we are brought its violent extreme where at the Red Centre the women are brainwashed by seeing the terrible society they were being saved from, they are made to watch films of atrocities such as rapes, disfigurations and actual murders of women. These can be seen as: 'a graphic depiction of the sexual victimization of women... the diseased underside of patriarchal culture. Subject to the killing male rage which mutilate dismembers and destroys, woman is a sexualized and dehumanized object in a sadomasochistic master-slave relationship.' [11]

The oppression in Atwood does not absolve women, especially in The Handmaid's Tale. Here, the bad mother figures are the Aunts who take up the little bit of power given them and rub it in their subordinates' faces. As single characters, they are depicted in a far harsher manner than the Commander and the other men. All in all, any woman with the slightest bit of power takes advantage of it. Serena Joy, the Commander's Wife, is given the most attention. She has become an unhappy embittered woman in this new society. Funnily, the speaker for traditional gender roles in the old society, she was never actually at home and it is this that is eating her up now that she has gotten what she wanted. However, she can hardly admit to this and cannot even hope to mother her own children. Caught in this position, she spits venom Offred's way at every possible occasion.

Lora's own mother in Bodily Harm acts as an accomplice to her daughter's victimization - when Lora finally confronts her step-father when he sexually assaults her the mother turns on the daughter saying she had asked for it.

Rennie's grandmother is also a typical Atwoodian bad mother figure. It is to her earliest memory of her grandmother that we link Rennie's final experiences in the book. Rennie's grandmother has sent her to the cellar and locked her there for doing something wrong. This echoes her incarceration in the basement cell of a prison for an unknown crime. Unfortunately, the parallel found in these two episodes juxtaposing past and present seem to show that Rennie - thus women in general - is condemned to the cultural role of victim.

Things seem to become truly hopeless for Rennie when she comes to see that her persecutor is also a part of her self: his eyes 'twin and reflect her own'. She, like him, is an unfeeling voyeur. She is able to watch the brutal beating of the deaf and dumb man in St. Antoine with fascination, again his beating in the courtyard of the prison, and finally the violence done to Lora. But yet, she does not intercede. Her own refusal to see the reality that surrounds her stems from the same disconnected unfeeling voyeurism that is the male gaze.

Whilst sharing a cell, Lora and Rennie are forced into a kind of bond. Lora's 'better' more violent stories are intertwined with Rennie's. When Lora begins to tell another one of her tales, Rennie wishes she could not hear her. She fixates on Lora's opening and closing mouth. Rennie's attitude is much like that of her society, which marginalises women like Lora. Lora belongs to the lower class, loose, dishevelled women who get what they deserve by Griswold's standards. The social and sexual oppression that she experiences are different from Rennie's. In a male-ordered society, her voice remains unheard. Women like her, of her standing are not taken any notice of and to oppose this Atwood puts her dialogue and experiences alongside Rennie's.

This is why Lora is finally the silenced, victimized woman - she is attacked after a threat she lashes out at the guards. Therefore despite Atwood trying to make Lora's story heard, she is still muted and Rennie's tale is made predominant again. What Atwood thinks and believes is needed in all of us is massive involvement; the need to take in and take part in the reality around us.

Offred's character also gives us reason to despair. She sinks dangerously close to complacency once she begins her encounters with Nick. Offred's mother had once remarked: 'Truly amazing, what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations.' With her affair with Nick, she feels that she can bear up with the way things have turned out and stops speaking to Ofglen, her shopping mate, about the 'May Day' Movement. By remaining silent later, Offred continues to give up her freedom, her identity and parts of her memory. Margaret Atwood also discusses this loss of freedom in a poem entitled Notes toward a poem that can never be written:

the woman
they did not kill
Instead they sewed her face
shut, closed her mouth
to a hole the size of a straw,
and put her back on the streets,
a mute symbol

Offred is a rebel, which means that she should be heroic, but she is not because the only times that she has rebelled is when she is handed the opportunity on a silver platter. Her only true and outright rebellion is when she enquires after the disappearance of Ofglen who has committed suicide in order not to be forced to reveal the identities of fellow dissidents.

Thus apart from minor rebellions we are brought to realize that Offred does not look particularly heroic throughout the novel. It has been noticed though that in all of Margaret Atwood's novels, Atwood teaches through negative example. The protagonists are not really heroic heroines at the beginning, and usually by the end, nothing has changed.

But this seems too harsh a statement when we analyse the endings of both Bodily Harm and The Handmaid's Tale. Rennie does have some sort of epiphany. 'Renata means reborn' [12]. She eventually tries to save Lora, (after she has been beaten up by the guards) by touching her hand and by calling her name. It is in recognising that Lora's prostitution is braver than her cold, impermeable self and in licking away the encrusted blood on Lora's face, Rennie finally touches, in contrast to her usual looking. She accepts Lora's humanity - Lora gave herself up sexually and maybe even dies for them - and so comes into contact with her own humanity. And once she escapes, she realizes her duty to write, to report the truth: 'she will pick her time: then she will report.'

But does this actually happen? In using the future tense in the ending, Atwood evades closure. The open-endedness allows the protagonist to be saved once again, or else it could be her imaginings of the possible ending. As for Rennie's change, she is now more open to life and more seeing:

She doesn't have much time left for anything. But neither does anyone else. She's paying attention, that's all.' Rennie 'will never be rescued' and yet 'has already been rescued'; although she 'is not exempt,' she is 'lucky, suddenly, finally, she's overflowing with luck [13]

Atwood liked the idea of the reader participating in the writing of the book. So it is left up to us whether or not we should see Rennie released. With this positive ray, the average reader would like to hope for a happy ending. It is hoped that Rennie returns to Toronto to write of these occurrences, defying all, becoming the voice of those who remain oppressed.

In Bodily Harm the image of the woman as object to masculine desire and violence is contrasted starkly to psychic and physical consequences that the actions have on the women. Lorna Irvine finds that the 'overtly traditional' narrative plot of Bodily Harm 'emphasizes the possibility of rescue, specifically the rescue of a female character by a male character.' We want her to be rescued.

Although the male rescuer does not appear in Bodily Harm, he does come in The Handmaid's Tale. It is Nick who risks his life at the end of the novel in attempting to save Offred's life and in so doing redeems all men. As in Bodily Harm, the humanity found in others allows the survival of the female protagonists.

Again we are never quite sure if Offred makes it to the safety of Europe but once again, the emphasis is on responsibility and involvement. Offred also 'reports' as Rennie decides she will. Her keeping of this diary that makes up the novel finally makes her a heroine. The pen is mightier than the sword, and though she is not allowed to have the power of thought, she uses it. 'I keep going with this sad and mutilated story, because after all, I want you to hear it. By telling you anything at all, I'm at least believing in you... Because I'm telling you this story I will your existence. I tell, therefore you are' 'And so I step up, into the darkness within; or else the light.' Her experiences are found recorded on tapes and this is 'for Atwood as well as for her heroines, the final irrevocable commitment to one's society and to one's own humanity' [14].

Endnotes
1 Hill Rigney, p.104
2 Brooks Bouson, p.111
3 Nicholson, p. l77 - l88
4 Nicholson, p.179 -180
5 This quote and others are taken from Margaret Atwood's Bodily Harm. Vintage, 1996.
6 Brooks Bouson, p.117
7 Naomi Wolf quoted in Brooks Bouson, p.112
8 Brooks Bouson, p.137
9 This quote and others are taken from Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Vintage, 1996
10 Brooks Bouson, p.128
11 Brooks Bouson, p.140
12 Brooks Bouson, p.131
13 Brooks Bouson, p.131
14 Hill Rigney, p.121.

Bibliography
Brooks Bouson, J. (1993) Brutal Choreographies. University of Massachusetts Press.
Hill Rigney, B. (1987) Women Writers - Margaret Atwood. Macmillan, UK.
Nicholson, C. (ed.) (1994). Margaret Atwood - Writing and Subjectivity. St. Martin's Press, UK.

© Justine, May 2002

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