Critical Theory Analysis Of Cat’s Eye

1824 words - 8 pages

AP Literature
Critical Theory Analysis of Cats Eye
The Feminist and Psychoanalytic Critical Theory

In Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood, the main character's understanding is dependent
on her distinctness from most stereotypical women. This is observed through her psyche and
subconscious, revealed within the text. Feminism is a key motif throughout the whole
novel. Atwood is known for writing works of literature that observe the discrimination and
undermining of women while pointing out their complexity and equality and sometimes
superiority to men. In this novel, the narrator is a successful female painter in the 1980s (the time
when the book was published) who describes her retrospective viewpoint and the relationships
with past characters that affected her development. She recalls her childhood around the time of
World War II. This was a time of evident sexist ideals, for women had only gained the right to vote
two decades prior. Elaine's character development is shown through her inner personality and
subconscious desires that are affected by gender.

At first, Elaine, just like any child, is unaware of the sexual bias that was frequently
present at these times. Elaine is raised with hard-working parents who study botany and human
effects on the environment. They are constantly moving for research, leaving Elaine to be
mainly influenced by her best friend and older brother, Stephen. Elaine does not fit the
stereotypical profile of a girl/woman at any point in the novel. She often plays rough war games,
reads comics, and finds bugs and carcasses interesting. Atwood tries to distinguish
Elaine from most women to show her awareness, strong suits, and smart qualities that would
not be usual for females at this time. Elaine is not exposed to the generalities of girls her age
until their nomad family settles in Toronto, Canada. Here, she experiences the company of other
girls who are categorized as normal through indirect characterization of their stereotypical
families and personalities. These three girls, Cordelia in particular, point out the flaws within
Elaine because she is different and defies gender stereotypes.

Elaine points out the segregation of the boys and girls at her school. She is appalled by
the separate bathrooms, because in her eyes it is just a door, and she couldn't see what made the
difference. Elaine feels out of place because she is not a stock character, where she would like to
play tag and run with the boys, she is separated by courtyard boundaries for boys and girls. This
represents her superego and desire to be something out of the social norm, however, she is held
back by the id to fit in with the girls in her grade. This desire leads to a self-impeding attitude
from herself and the girls around her. She often participates in playing dress up and making
scratchbooks from the Eatons Catalogue, but she does not enjoy doing this, it is the facade of
her persona. There is an unbalance t...

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