Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts
Link to Charlotte Dunn's Senior Art Thesis  

Margaret  Atwood

Charlotte  Dunn 

Quebec Nationalism during the Separatist Movement

Isolation as Social Commentary in the Novels of Margaret Atwood

Conflict and tensions between British and French Canadians exploded in 1759 on the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec City. From the time of that pivotal battle, both French and British Canadians fought over language, culture, and politics in their society. The French felt that, compared to the British, they were not treated equally; they wanted to be included in politics and the major decision making of Canada. The resentment felt by the Francophones, along with the strong views of their popular leaders, fueled the Separatist movement in the early 1960s. Some leaders, like Rene Levesque, advocated complete secession, while others, like Pierre Trudeau, urged full equality for Quebec among the family of provinces in Canada. In the midst of the tensions with the rest of Canada, Quebec sought support from its neighbors in the United States and from other Francophone leaders, such as Charles de Gaulle. Through the tensions and controversy, Quebec formed an alliance with the United States, creating new business opportunities and foreign relations. These new business opportunities and relations allowed Quebec to bring in its own revenue, separating itself from the other provinces for its income.

The protagonists of Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s novels, Surfacing, Oryx and Crake, and The Year of the Flood all experience feelings of isolation, similar to the way Quebecers felt excluded from political life in Canada. Each character experiences isolation that is both literal and figurative, in many cases self-inflicted, and in other cases forced upon them. In every case, the isolation that Atwood’s characters feel serves to mirror the isolation of the individual in modern society. Because her works are often set in future dystopian versions of our world, Atwood depicts the environmental devastation the human race has caused as a way of underscoring these feelings of isolation. Jimmy, of Oryx and Crake, is isolated within a post-apocalyptic version of our own world following a global pandemic that has killed most of the human race. Alone in the aftermath of the virus, Jimmy is deserted and hopeless, feelings that mirror those experienced by the alienated individual in modern society.

Major Works Consulted:

Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake. New York City: First Anchor, 2004.
--. The Year of the Flood. New York: First Anchor Books, 2010.
Coleman, William D. The Independence Movement in Quebec 1945-1980. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1986
Salloum, Habeeb. “Quebec’s Separation Movement: It’s brought Canadian Unity Closer” in Contemporary Review, 312
Photo Credit: Atwood, Margaret. The Year of the Flood. New York: First Anchor, 2010.


 Link to Charlotte Dunn's Senior Art Thesis