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An Analysis of Eco-feminism in Margaret Atwood’s Novels

Author XiaoXue
Tutor JiangLei
School Liaoning University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Eco-feminism nature human beings male female
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
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Margaret Atwood, known as the queen in the contemporary Canadian literature, enjoys a high reputation in the world as a poet, novelist and literature reviewer. She has been on writing since 1956. The feminism, Canadian nationalism, and ecological consciousness are three themes in Atwood’s novels. As an insightful woman writer, she always focuses her attention on women under the domination of male society. The female characters in her novels always experience the process of getting lost, escape, and rebirth. Meanwhile, with the deep sense of responsibility, Atwood concerns about the survival environment in the modern society. Her novels describe human’s serious destruction to nature, and remind people to build a harmonious relationship between mankind and nature. Hence, ecological consciousness and feminist idea integrate perfectly in her novels.The thesis selects Margaret Atwood’s three novels The Edible Woman, Surfacing, and The Handmaids’Tale as the study object. The thesis carries out a systematic research on the three novels in the theory of eco-feminism. It aims to provide a new perspective for the study on Atwood’s novels, and recall the attention on the ecological crisis and the living situation of female.The thesis is divided into three parts, including introduction, main body, and conclusion. Its main contents are as follows:Introduction is the first part of the thesis which aims to give a brief introduction to Margaret Atwood, her awards history as well as the multiple themes in her novels. It also gives brief summaries to the three novels The Edible Woman, Surfacing, and The Handmaids’Tale. Meanwhile, the aim and theoretical significance of the thesis also can be found in this part.The second part is the main body of the thesis. It is made up of four chapters.Chapter one first gives a brief introduction to the origin, representatives, and main point of view of Eco-feminism, which are the preparations for analyzing Atwood’s novels. Eco-feminism appeared in the 1970s, which was the combination of the women’s liberation and the ecological movement. Eco-feminists fight against anthropocentrism and androcentrism. Secondly, this chapter investigates the reasons for the Eco-feminist awareness by Atwood’s childhood life, family background, and life experience. Chapter two elaborates the dilemma of nature and female in the patriarchal society. First of all, nature and female have some close relationship. Nature creates all creatures in the world. At the same time, female is capable of giving birth to a child. Meanwhile, both nature and women are in the lower position of the male-dominated society. To some degree, they are closely related to each other. Secondly, anthropocentrism universally exists in the relationship between human and nature. Human beings take themselves as the masters of the world and the soul of all creatures. In order to realize the development, they would rather destroy the natural environment. In the modern society, nature is subjected to the brutal domination of human beings. However, human beings are not regretful to do that, because the idea of human over nature makes human beings lost in front of nature. Thirdly, the popularity of androcentrism makes women submissive to men. Women have no social status and rights in the male-dominated world. Meanwhile, Gender discrimination, male superiority, and unequal rights can be easily found in Atwood’s novels.Chapter three reveals the rebellion of nature and female by the analysis of Atwood’s three novels. Firstly, it discusses the ruthless revenge from nature to human beings. As we all know, human beings are facing a serious ecological crisis. Greenhouse effect, the holes of the ozone layer and acid rain have come into our daily life. Atwood had described some ecological problems in her novels, such as the polluted environment in Duncan’s hometown, and the horrible future scene in the Republic of Gilead. Then, as the alliance of nature, women’s rebellion awareness is gradually coming out. Women should stand up and give a resistance to the male domination. Hence, more and more women choose to go out of their family and create their own career. Women realize their liberation by breaking the androcentrism.Chapter four has a further discussion on the relationship between human and nature, male and female. It calls for people to build a wonderful world with gender equality and harmony between human and nature.Conclusion is the last part. It gives a summary to the thesis. It points out the great value of the eco-feminism in analysis of the literary works. It also makes human beings pay more attention to environment protection and the survival of women.

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