Margaret Atwood’s novel
and her literary history
Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature
were both published in 1972 at the beginning of her career, when she first put Canadian literature on the map internationally by distinguishing it from British and American literature, ‘with which it is often compared or confused’.
she refers to a distinctive ‘Canadian signature’, which would encode the signs of Canadian history, geography, and cultural attitudes in a literary work, and for the young Atwood that signature was represented by the trope of ‘wilderness’. My emphasis in this chapter is on the distinctive ways in which the wilderness is used in these two early texts, though I shall also suggest some of the shifts in Atwood’s writing of the wilderness that are visible in her later fiction. Writers are rooted in a particular place and Atwood’s place is Canada:
You come out of something, and you can then branch out in all kinds of different directions, but that doesn’t mean cutting yourself off from your roots and from your earth. (
, p. 143)