Friday, April 27, 2007

Surfacing

This week words and pictures came together. I'd just finished reading Surfacing by Margaret Atwood when I came across this picture by one of my favorite Flickr photographer's Rebekka.

The picture strikingly reminded me of the novel I had just read in which at the end the protagonist becomes ferile. Surfacing is often classed as an ecofeminist novel, playing with the argument that two very defined, contradictory, and dualistic worlds exist in the patriarchal society: the feminine and the masculine. On the one hand, the feminine principle represents mother nature, the body, irrationality, emotion, intuition and mysticism. On the other hand, the masculine principle represents rationality, logic, separation from nature, the head, intellectualism, language, and concrete reality. In the novel the Surfacer constantly struggles to function in her masculine dominated society: she feels cut off from emotion and feeling, grapples with the actual language, and initially tries to deny her natural roots. By the end of the novel she has shed her clothes, her words, and lives in the forest as an animal - she becomes part of the landscape. I'm not sure that the message of this book necessarily needs to be "feminist", on a simpler level it could just be "eco", a return to and acceptance of the natural world. At the end of the novel though the Surfacer prepares to rejoin the society which she had rejected, I'm not sure why, it seems a bit of a cop out. May be she had finally discovered who she really was, not radically separate from nature, she felt she could re-enter as a changed person more able to cope with the struggle of everyday life.

This book is considered one of the most important of the 20th Century. Not sure I agree, it made me think though and that's always a good thing.