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The Discourses Of Science And Art In Cat's Eye By Margaret Atwood

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Discourses in a novel often allow people in the know, to understand particular meaning within certain topics or issues. For instance, a discourse of Calculus in a novel would be relevant to those who study and know the subject. They would pick up on the meaning conveyed within this discourse, whereas people not familiar can only make uneducated guesses. In Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood, there are many discourses on offer. Atwood focuses on fictional, autobiographical, scientific and artistic discourses. Which are subtly included in all aspects of the text, mainly in literary devices and the structure of the novel itself.

The discourses of fiction and autobiography are juxtaposed in Cat's Eye with the intention of allowing insiders to know, and outsiders to assume meaning contained by the subtle presence of discourses. Cat's Eye is set in Toronto where Atwood grew up, and the attitudes towards the picturesque capital of Canada are somewhat bitter and full of nostalgic reflection. The main character, Elaine, states on page 14 of the book;

'Underneath the flourish and ostentation is the old city, street after street of thick red brick houses... their watchful, calculating windows. Malicious, grudging, vindictive, implacable. In my dreams of this city I am always lost.'

Just the building of a character cannot account for the heavy and distinct feeling of resentment directed at the city and everything in it. Atwood's father, was a forest entomologist, just as Elaine's father was, Atwood spent her childhood in Ottawa during the winters and the rest of the year in northern Quebec and Ontario. In 1946, her father took up a position as professor at the University of Toronto, and the family moved to there. The parallels between the lives of the author and the main female character, Elaine, are undeniable. The reader cannot know for certain that Atwood herself experienced bullying, but it is obvious not just in Cat's Eye but in some of her other works that she represents gender in an original way, subverting often used stereotypes. When the book was written, Atwood was 49, teetering towards middle age, coming to terms with her years past, and her years to come. In the novel, the present Elaine was also middle aged, and struggling with her identity, as she slowly becomes invisible. Elaine suffered constantly with the pain of imperfection, near the beginning before the retrospective in Toronto, Elaine goes into the gallery;

'I know immediately that I should not have worn this powder-blue jogging outfit. Powder-blue is lightweight. I should have worn nun black, Dracula black, like all proper female painters.'

Elaine feels outdated, and out of touch, it is possible that Atwood herself was finding herself in these situations, and readers going through this stage of their life or for that matter, anyone who is in a process of change, would identify with the content on ageing. This is but few of the many examples of links between fiction and autobiographical features in Cat's Eye, this is a powerful combination that takes full advantage of the juxtapositions it makes available within these discourses.

The subject of femininity and the identity of the main character can be explored through discourses. Fictional and autobiographical features juxtapose and merge so as to more accurately represent femininity in Cat's Eye showing it in a more precise way. Because words are only representation, the means by which they are presented can alter how readers perceive particular aspects of the story. Novels need things such as discourses, among other things, to bring more meaning and background to an otherwise two dimensional story. Women, need to be attractive, smart, but not too smart. Women need to walk straight, and answer just the right amount of questions, either be humble or domineering, in being female, there is no middle ground. The female identity has long been constructed as the more delicate and demure of the sexes, Elaine, who grew up away from the definition between masculinity and femininity was amazed by the grace of 'real' girls.

'I draw them in old fashioned clothing, with long skirts, pinafores and puffed sleeves... this is the elegant, delicate picture I have in my mind, about other little girls. I don't think about what I might say to them if actually met some. I haven't got that far.'

Elaine's transition from country to city life is looked at through interaction between Elaine and Cordelia, Elaine's never



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