Summary and Book Reviews
The Journals of Susanna Moodie: Summary and book reviews of The Journals of Susanna Moodie by Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood's The Journals of Susanna Moodie distills the frontierswoman's travails as an English immigrant to Canada, conducting a three-part examination of the duality inherent in the immigrant experience. Moodie, along with her husband, immigrates in 1832, when she is 27, [and] northern Canada proves to be a harsh, desolate land that Moodie must learn to endure for seven years. It is a place of
"long hills, the swamps, the barren sand, the glare
She is not rescued nor does she ever return to her homeland, instead choosing to adapt to the climate by growing "a chapped tarpaulin/skin." Eventually her "heirloom face" evolves into "a crushed eggshell/among other debris," "pocked ravines" sear her cheeks, and her "eye-/sockets [become] 2 craters…"
"I take this picture of myself
The collages that Atwood uses to punctuate these poems further illustrate this preoccupation with seeing. One striking collage depicts a wolf at the lower right of the page, shaggy and wild, mouth gaping, while diagonally opposite, in the upper right corner, we see a gentleman in aristocratic dress encircled in the midst of a snowy, frosted wasteland. In the accompanying poem, "The Wereman," Moodie imagines her husband turning into an animal when he traverses the land: "Unheld by my sight/what does he change into." The power of sight (and, by extension, insight) to change our preconceived notions of the world and its inhabitants, even those closest to us, resonates throughout the collection.
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