Margaret Atwood and Social Justice: A Writer's Evolving Ideology
Margaret Atwood and Social Justice eventually presents a loose ideology evident in the author’s major works of prose fiction. It insists, however, that Atwood is a writer, not an ideologue, and that, therefore, this ideology evolves over her career, always secondary to her presenting stories and characters and, through them, ideas. Throughout her career, Atwood has been concerned about the social injustice experienced by women. After expressing concern for the plight of the environment in Surfacing and workers in Life Before Man, Atwood turned quite political in Bodily Harm and The Handmaid’s Tale, blending her concern for justice for women with criticism of present-day Third-World and future right-wing governments. Atwood, then, turned inward, looking at how those denied justice often do the same to others and turned to history, looking at injustice tied to social class. She later brought many of her concerns together in The Blind Assassin and, especially, the three books that comprise the MaddAddam trilogy. Later works such as The Heart Goes Last, Hag-Seed, and The Testaments add to the picture most fully articulated in The Blind Assassin, which looks back at the 1930s, and the MaddAddam books, which look ahead to a future marked by global warming, corporate oppression, and pandemic. As argued here, these later books strengthen her indictment of corporations, which oppress for the sake of profit, and offer her most straightforward recognition that race plays a major role in whether social justice is served or not.
Theodore F. Sheckels, PhD, is Charles J. Potts Professor Emeritus of Social Science and Professor Emeritus of English and Communication Studies at Randolph-Macon College, USA. He is the author, co-author, editor, and co-editor of 20 books, some of which explore political communication topics such as presidential rhetoric and speechwriting, while others consider a wide range of Commonwealth literature including writers from South Africa, Australia, and Canada. In 2003, he published a critical survey of Canadian women writers, and in 2012, he published The Political in Margaret Atwood’s Fiction. He is a former President of the Margaret Atwood Society and founding editor of Margaret Atwood Studies.
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