Margaret Atwood’s early novels and short stories use varieties of comedy and the Gothic to deal with issues of social constraints upon the development of women, and to replay, undercut or expose the myths and romantic fictions which offer seductive narratives leading (in particular) to women’s disempowerment. This chapter builds on Coral Ann Howells’ explorations of Atwood’s engagement with Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963) and the beginning of second-wave feminism. It explores Atwood’s feminist re-visioning of representations of women’s roles, and constructions of the self as woman, writer, victim, and survivor. In these two novels, Atwood’s parody subverts both the marriage plot and women’s ‘feminine’ destiny. She critiques and re-writes conventional romance plots using, while undercutting, the strategies of the popular literary Gothic. Both these novels deal with ways in which women can buy into, replay or reject various fictions about themselves in the world, in terms of relationships and gender as performance.
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