|Summary:||碩士 === 國立中正大學 === 外國語文研究所 === 88 === Margaret Atwood wrote in the novel that the Eskimos have more than fifty ways to name snow (107). Similarly, there are as many ways to interpret Surfacing. This paper mainly addresses the gender issues in the novel. In Surfacing, Atwood no longer seeks the essential definition of women as what she does in her first novel The Edible Woman. She takes further steps to explore the formulation of female subjectivity in a patriarchal society. Instead of asking the question “what is woman”, Atwood examines the whys of female being.
The thesis is divided into three chapters, with an introduction, three chapters of the main body, and conclusion. I focus on the process of the narrator's transformation from a repressed to an insightful woman. I suggest that there are three regressions in the novel and I discuss each regression in different chapters.
In Chapter One, I examine the first regression of the narrator's journey--her return to her remote hometown in Northern Quebec. When the novel begins, the narrator does not realize how she is being affected and dominated by the patriarchal ideology. However, what she perceives on the road, such as the power relation between men and nature or the power relation between David and Anna, has helped her to come to an awareness of women’s suffering in the patriarchal system. Then, from her friend, Anna, she observes how female identity has been consumed by patriarchal values and sees a mirrored self in Anna. Chapter Two explores the second regression by tracing the narrator's return to her childhood, discussing her symbolic dive into the lake, and how recovering memories of the past leads the narrator to her own recovery. In what follows, I outline Lacan’s theory of the Symbolic order and Kristeva's concept of the symbolic and the semiotic, then illustrate their use by exploring some of the language issues offered by the novel. Finally, I discuss her regression from the symbolic order to the Pre-Oedipal stage and how these regressions help the narrator to escape from the dominating patriarchal ideology and to live as a new self.
The three regressions do not exist independently. Instead, they have close relations. The first regression makes the narrator reconsider her situation in the patriarchal society and eventually leads her to question the making of her gender identity. The reconsideration and interrogation bring about her second regression. In her second regression, the narrator gradually finds out the truth that all her sufferings and conflicts are actually caused by the oppressive patriarchal system. Finally, she experiences a fantastic regression to the pre-Oedipal phase and then comes up with a newborn power. She discards the Law of the Father, releasing herself from deep-rooted patriarchal thinking, and constructs a newly found vision of self-identity.