Jade wrote the following short essay on the impact of Margaret Atwood's work.
There are few voices in Canadian literature that have sparked such praise and
discussion as Margaret Atwood’s. Her candid observations of sexism have made her into
a Canadian icon. This year, two of Atwood’s novels, Alias Grace and The Handmaid’s
Tale , were adapted into critically acclaimed television series, proving their relevance
even decades after they were published.
Just last year, Margaret Atwood won the PEN Pinter Prize for her political
activism. Her novels consistently support her feminist values and feature complex
female characters who reflect the lives of real women in our society. For example, the
dystopian nation of Gilead from The Handmaid’s Tale is based on the rise of the
religious right-wing in 1980s America. Similarly, Grace Marks of Alias Grace was a real
woman that lived in Upper Canada in the mid-1800s.
The abuse that Grace endures illustrates the lives of working women in the 19th
century. Grace, like many people of her era, believes that sexual assault is an inevitable
part of a woman’s life. Her body will be exploited and controlled by others; she will be
labeled as impure even if she is a victim. Sadly, Grace’s experiences seem eerily similar
to the modern stories of the #metoo campaign, a movement that exploded after
confessions of sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood. It soon spread to Canada,
sparking rallies from Vancouver to Toronto where hundreds of Canadians showed up to
protest. This prompted ACTRA, Canada’s performing union, to hold a meeting to find
solutions for sexual misconduct in the workplace.
This year, Atwood reminded us that equality is fragile; despite living in a modern
nation, many of our issues are centuries old. However, most importantly, Margaret
Atwood gave a voice to the silent women navigating a man’s world.