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Margaret Atwood | Biography

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Early Life, Education, and Career

Born in Ottawa on November 18, 1939, Margaret Atwood is recognized as a prolific Canadian writer who has published in multiple genres, including poetry, essays, nonfiction, short stories, and novels. As a child Atwood spent time in the woods of Ontario and Quebec, where her father, an entomologist, pursued his research. Her parents encouraged her to read, get an education, and use her intelligence. However, when she decided she wanted to become a writer, she found little precedent for becoming a female Canadian novelist or poet. Professional writing was considered a man's career. After earning an undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, Atwood moved to the United States for graduate school, attending both Radcliffe College and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her first novel, The Edible Woman, was published in 1969.

Connections and Themes

Her experiences living in a cabin with no electricity while accompanying her father on research trips gave her ample material for Surfacing, her second novel. Like Atwood, the narrator is the daughter of a man whose love for and interest in nature led him to research remote areas. Like Atwood, the narrator is at home in both rural and urban environments. Atwood brings this unique perspective to Surfacing as her characters navigate the cultural differences between rural and urban environments.

While The Handmaid's Tale (1985) has remained Atwood's most well-known and influential novel, many of the same issues are explored in Surfacing. At its publication it was generally applauded for honestly tackling the challenges faced by women after the cultural and sexual changes of the 1960s. The mixture of emotional complexity, striking imagery, and language craft marked Atwood as a serious, ambitious, and capable writer. Since Surfacing she has published over 40 books, including novels, collections of poetry, and collections of essays.

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