The Edible Woman Background

The Edible Woman Background

When Margaret Atwood first submitted the manuscript for her first completed novel, The Edible Woman, a funny thing happened on the way to publication. The publisher lost the manuscript. Four years after that unfortunate mistake, Margaret Atwood was invited out to lunch by that very same publisher. In the interim, she had collected a number of awards for her poetry and in the process had developed an impressive reputation. Atwood made an interesting inquiry during that lunch: she asked the publisher if he had ever actually read The Edible Woman before subsequently losing it. The publisher honestly replied that he had not. That story provides a thematic framework for understanding the placement of women in the 1960's that may help to deepen an understanding of the story being told in the novel.

In the decades since the novel’s publication in 1969, millions have picked up The Edible Woman and read its story young and rebellious Marian McAlpin, the bride-to-be who engages in open insurrection against the conventions and traditions placed upon her in the face of her oncoming wedding ceremony. Although the novel tackles serious issues related to growing up as a woman which connected strongly with the seething feminist movement about to explode in the 1970s, the story itself makes the tale more comic than any sort of dark and foreboding warning to a patriarchy lost amidst its own unawareness. Marian asserts that “I know I was all right on Friday when I got up” before embarking upon a journey of discovery of what exactly might be behind her increasingly bizarre and often irrational behavior.

Atwood’s novel is at heart a search for identity. That identity is focused upon gender expectations and the contradictory nature of Marian in the face of sexist conventions is the driving force behind both the comedy and drama that has in the decades since made The Edible Woman perhaps the last major feminist novel to come out of the 1960s.

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