Unraveling the Mysteries of Childhood: Metaphorical Portrayals of Children in Margaret Atwood’s Fiction


  • Teresa Gibert UNED




Margaret Atwood, metaphor, children in literature, literary portrayal of childhood, monstrous babies


Most metaphorical expressions related to children in Margaret Atwood’s novels and short stories can be grouped into two coherent sets. The predominant negative set includes a wide range of monsters and hideous animals, whereas the much shorter list of positive representations encompasses sunflowers, jewels, feathers, little angels, gifts and lambs. Negative representations of children in Atwood’s fiction are generally rendered in an unconventional manner and reflect the frustration felt by realistically portrayed characters in their everyday experience. On the contrary, favorable expressions have a tendency toward stereotype and often belong to the world of memories, dreams and illusions.


Download data is not yet available.



Atwood, Margaret. The Edible Woman. 1969. Virago, 1989.
Atwood, Margaret. Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature. Anansi, 1972.
Atwood, Margaret. Surfacing. 1972. Virago, 1979.
Atwood, Margaret. Lady Oracle. 1976. Virago, 1982.
Atwood, Margaret. Dancing Girls. 1977. Virago, 1989.
Atwood, Margaret. Life Before Man. 1979. Virago, 1982.
Atwood, Margaret. Bodily Harm. 1981. Virago, 1986.
Atwood, Margaret. Bluebeard’s Egg. 1983. Virago, 1989.
Atwood, Margaret. Murder in the Dark: Short Fictions and Prose Poems. 1983. Jonathan Cape, 1984.
Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. 1985. Virago, 1987.
Atwood, Margaret. Cat’s Eye. 1988. Bloomsbury, 1989.
Atwood, Margaret. Wilderness Tips. McClelland & Stewart, 1991.
Atwood, Margaret. The Robber Bride. McClelland & Stewart, 1993.
Atwood, Margaret. “A Sad Child.” Morning in the Burned House. McClelland & Stewart, 1995, pp. 4‒5.
Atwood, Margaret. Alias Grace. Bloomsbury, 1996.
Atwood, Margaret. The Blind Assassin. Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2000.
Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake. Bloomsbury, 2003.
Atwood, Margaret. “Introduction: Reading Blind.” The Best American Short Stories 1989. Writing with Intent: Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose 1983‒2005. Carroll & Graf, 2005, pp. 68‒79.
Atwood, Margaret. Moral Disorder and Other Stories. Nan A. Talese/ Doubleday, 2006.
Atwood, Margaret. The Year of the Flood. Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2009.
Atwood, Margaret. MaddAddam. Bloomsbury, 2013.
Barzilai, Shuli. “How Far Would You Go? Trajectories of Revenge in Margaret Atwood’s Short Fiction.” Contemporary Women’s Writing, vol. 11, no. 3, 2017, pp. 316‒35.
Bone, Jane. “Environmental Dystopias: Margaret Atwood and the Monstrous Child.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, vol. 37, no. 5, 2016, pp. 627‒40.
Brans, Jo. “Using What You’re Given: An Interview with Margaret Atwood.” Southwest Review, vol. 58, no. 4, 1983, pp. 301‒14.
Carroll, Lewis. Alice in Wonderland: Authoritative Texts of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking-glass, The Hunting of the Snark: Backgrounds, Essays in Criticism. Edited by Donald J. Gray, Norton, 1971.
Heilmann, Ann, and Debbie Taylor. “Interview with Margaret Atwood, Hay-on-Wye, 27 May 2001.” European Journal of American Culture, vol. 20, no. 3, 2001, pp. 132‒47.
Ingersoll, Earl G., editor. Margaret Atwood: Conversations. Firefly, 1990.
Jones, Bethan. “Traces of Shame: Margaret Atwood’s Portrayal of Childhood Bullying.” Critical Survey, vol. 20, no. 1, 2008, pp. 29‒42.
Kogawa, Joy. Obasan. 1981. Doubleday, 1994.
Kohlke, Marie-Luise. “Neo-Victorian Childhoods: Re-Imagining the Worst of Times.” Neo-Victorian Families: Gender, Sexual and Cultural Politics, edited by Marie-Luise Kohlke and Christian Gutleben, Rodopi, 2011, pp. 119‒47.
Lakoff, George, and Mark Turner. More than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor. U of Chicago P, 1989.
Lawn, Jenny. “Born Under the Sign of Joan: Margaret Atwood’s Lady Oracle, Mommie Dearest, and the Uses of Maternal Ambivalence.” Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering, vol. 5, no. 1, 2003, pp. 33‒44.
Lyons, Bonnie. “Using Other People’s Dreadful Childhoods.” Ingersoll, Margaret Atwood, pp. 221‒33.
Oates, Joyce Carol. “My Mother Would Rather Skate Than Scrub Floors.” Ingersoll, Margaret Atwood, pp. 69‒73.
Renner, Karen J. The ‘Evil’ Child in Literature, Film and Popular Culture. Routledge, 2013.
Renner, Karen J. Evil Children in the Popular Imagination. Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
Ross, Catherine Sheldrik, and Cory Bieman Davies. “More Room for Play.” Ingersoll, Margaret Atwood, pp. 152‒61.
Schober, Adrian. Possessed Child Narratives in Literature and Film: Contrary States. Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
Waugh, Patricia. Feminine Fictions: Revisiting the Postmodern. Routledge, 2012.
Wojcik, Pamela Robertson. Fantasies of Neglect: Imagining the Urban Child in American Film and Fiction. Rutgers UP, 2016.




How to Cite

Gibert, T. “Unraveling the Mysteries of Childhood: Metaphorical Portrayals of Children in Margaret Atwood’s Fiction”. ES Review. Spanish Journal of English Studies, no. 39, Dec. 2018, pp. 29-50, doi:10.24197/ersjes.39.2018.29-50.