Literature Study GuidesSurfacingPart 2 Chapter 11 Summary

Surfacing | Study Guide

Margaret Atwood

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Surfacing | Part 2, Chapter 11 | Summary



That night Joe is sullen and refuses the narrator's sexual advances. At breakfast he ignores her. David and Anna wonder what's wrong. As the narrator feeds the birds, Paul arrives at the dock in his boat accompanied by another man—Bill Malmstrom, a member of the Wildlife Protection Association of America. Malmstrom wants to buy the home and land as a retreat for members. The narrator says it isn't for sale at the moment. After the two men leave, David says he thinks Malmstrom is with the CIA and was scouting the place for a base in the coming "war"—a war in which America will try to take over Canada for its clean water.

Later, Anna tells the narrator David has had several affairs. He's honest about them, and when she becomes jealous, he says that jealousy is "bourgeois." "Really," she says, "it's just to show me he can do it and get away with it." Anna warns the narrator David might hit on her to make Anna jealous. The narrator is disappointed Anna and David's marriage isn't as good as she thought.


After several chapters driven by the narrator's escalating internal crisis, this chapter circles back to the theme of Canadian identity. After Bill Malmstrom leaves, David launches into a paranoid rant about America taking over Canada for its clean water. Although David's ideas are extreme, the fact that Malmstrom wants to purchase the land for use by Americans seems to be in the same vein. Perhaps, rather than making war on Canada to get at its pristine natural landscape and water sources, Americans will simply buy it, piece by piece.

Although it is only ever mentioned in passing, the narrator has assumed the role of her mother by regularly feeding the birds, as she remembers her mother doing. This recalls her sense in Chapter 6 that she had stepped into the role of her mother, with Anna playing the role of the narrator and the men playing the roles of her father and brother. And even in Chapter 10, taking the three of them blueberry picking and then making them pie casts the three friends in very childlike roles. All of these small events contribute to the subtle transformation of the narrator into the role of her mother.

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