Allusions to Atwood's personal life
From 1963 to 1964, Atwood worked for Canadian Facts, a Toronto-based survey research firm, fact-checking and editing survey questionnaires. Canadian Facts had a similar work environment to the fictional Seymour Surveys where Marian worked. In Margaret Atwood: A Critical Companion, Cooke argues that the characters of Peter, Lucy, and Mrs. Sims were drawn from people in Atwood's life – Peter being a fictionalized version of Atwood's boyfriend (also an amateur photographer) and later fiancé. It is also likely that the name of her roommate and friend Ainsley was inspired by Annesley Hall at Victoria University in the University of Toronto, to which Atwood belonged. The all-female residence building, which was built in 1903, was the first university residence building for women in Canada.