The Painful and Lonely Journey in Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing

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The Painful and Lonely Journey in Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing

Not all journeys are delightful undertakings. In Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing, the nameless narrator underwent a painful process of shedding the false skins she had acquired in the city, in order to obtain a psychic cleansing towards an authentic self. By recognizing the superficial qualities of her friends, uncovering the meaning of love, and rediscovering her childhood, the narrator was prepared for change. She was ready to take the plunge and resurface in her true form.

Weighed down by alienation and loneliness, the narrator considered Anna, whom she had known for merely two months, her best woman friend. Although she trusted Anna, her boyfriend Joe, and Anna’s
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David believed that they were the "new bourgeoisie" (43). Presentation of oneself to others was high on David’s list when the group met Claude. Slipping into his yokel dialect, David wanted to prove that he too was a "man of the people" (30) He was no expert at communications, yet David taught an Adult Education Communications programme. He treated his job lightly though, for he dubbed it "Adult Vegetation" class. As with her friends, the narrator was not entirely satisfied with her career as an illustrator. She detested going to interviews, in which she was at a loss of what to wear: the clothing felt "strapped to [her], like an aqualung or an extra, artificial limb." (56) Furthermore, the narrator defied illustrating false, cheery images of towers and princesses. She was agitated that the stories never "revealed the essential things about them, such as what they ate or whether their towers and dungeons had bathrooms, it was as though their bodies were pure air" (58). When she attempted to portray these stories realistically, her publisher argued that the images were too "disturbing" for young children (57).

The four friends smoked and drank and copulated with one another, yet they knew almost nothing about each other. The narrator’s friends’ pasts

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