Literature Study GuidesSurfacingPart 1 Chapter 7 Summary

Surfacing | Study Guide

Margaret Atwood

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Surfacing | Part 1, Chapter 7 | Summary



After supper the narrator digs some worms and catches a small frog to be used as fishing bait. They all paddle out in a canoe to fish along the mainland shore. After a few failures with the worms, the narrator hooks the frog onto David's line, which brings them success. A motorboat carrying two Americans and Claude, a man from the motel, approaches, and the narrator decides to go back, recalling past encounters with other Americans.


This chapter displays the narrator's competence in the arts of survival. This again contrasts her struggle for competence and power in other areas of life (such as her repeated failures with the illustrations in the previous chapter) with her wilderness survival skills. The chapter also returns to the matter of the narrator's discomfort about her father's drawings. Now that she suspects he might be insane, she imagines him lurking everywhere, presenting a danger to her friends.

Of particular note is when the narrator uses the frog to catch a fish. As the narrator hooks the frog in a no-nonsense way, Anna calls her "coldblooded." The narrator has already revealed she believes Joe fell for her because she doesn't show emotions, and she isn't sure she loves Joe. This is a character trait that is important to notice and track throughout the book. Why does the narrator have trouble feeling or expressing emotions?

Another interesting aspect of this frog-hooking episode is the way the narrator describes it in terms of mystical power. She describes fishing as something you could do by "invocation" or "prayer" and the frog as "magic." She remembers pretending the fish came willingly. She dislikes the idea of using power to cause harm.

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