The solitary dancer : isolation and affirmation in the poetry of Margaret Atwood

Parks, Claudia Susan (1976) The solitary dancer : isolation and affirmation in the poetry of Margaret Atwood. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

The poetry of Margaret Atwood reflects an awareness of the isolation of the individual. This isolation is seen by the persona of Atwood’s poems as the result of the subjectivity of perception, the turning inward onto the self of the data supplied by the senses, and of the conditioned and artificial responses which the individual makes to all external phenomena, whether of the natural world or of the behaviour of other people. These aspects of the theme of isolation are revealed through the persona's comments on other people, in particular her observations about the male figure who is her unseen companion in the poems and to whom many of the poems are addressed. However, fear, evasiveness, hostility and resignation also bear a causal relation to the isolation of the individual, and these aspects of the isolation theme are revealed by image patterns in the poems, and by the implied or suggested motives behind what the persona admits and what she will not admit. -- Isolation also inheres in the individual's response to the past. To the adult persona, the past represents an exclusive and desirable order which is inaccessible in the present. In the poems which deal with this aspect of isolation, the lack of continuity between past and present is revealed through the imagery as the result of a conscious acceptance of the logical order manifested by the modern world and a rejection of the non-formal element of reality or the non-manifest order of the world. -- The continuing exploration of the nature of the self in Atwood's poetry reveals that the split between past and present is due to the divided nature of man, the split between the ordering conscious mind and the non-formal unconscious. -- Atwood does not resolve the tensions inherent in man's divided nature but, through her persona, she does explore and give voice to the repressed or denied half of the individual. This acknowledgment of the instinctual, extra-logical side of man's nature provides the changing emphasis necessary in order to make a realistic and yet whole-hearted affirmation of the human condition. In the poems of affirmation, isolation is not disproved but is seen as singleness, an intrinsic condition of every individual life which does not exclude the possibility of communion.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/5467
Item ID: 5467
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves [317]-321.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: 1976
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Atwood, Margaret Eleanor, 1939---Criticism and interpretation; Isolation (Philosophy) in literature

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