The Edible Woman


Loss of identity
Marian's refusal to eat can be viewed as her resistance to being coerced into a more feminine role. In a description of Peter's apartment, Marian describes the "clutter of raw materials" that had, through "digestion and assimilation", become the walls of the lobby. She sees that consumption precedes construction: the body's assimilation of raw materials (food) is analogous to the social body's assimilation and processing of women into socially acceptable feminine subjects. By not eating, Marian refuses to take in the raw materials used to re-construct her into a role of domesticity.[5] This struggle is made explicit when one of Duncan's roommates expounds on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as having a "sexual-identity crisis", then goes on to describe the structure of both Alice and The Edible Woman: "One sexual role after another is presented [to the heroine] but she seems unable to accept any of them." Marian is shaped first by her parents' plans for her future, then by Peter's.[6] Once married, Marian fears Peter's strong personality will obliterate her own fragile identity. This subconscious perception of Peter as predator is manifested by Marian's body as an inability to eat, as a gesture of solidarity with other prey.[7] Following her engagement, the switch to third-person narrative shows that Marian's story is controlled by someone other than Marian herself; following Marian's regaining of identity, Atwood returns to first-person narration.[4]
In the transitions from first person to third person, Atwood demonstrates Marian's growing alienation from her body. At the company Christmas party, Marian looks around at the other women, thinking "You were green and then you ripened: became mature. Dresses for the mature figure. In other words, fat."[3] Marian refuses to become likewise, which would transform her into a woman and as such be constrained by a sexist culture. Marian is, therefore, alienated from nature as she places herself outside the process of maturation.[8]

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