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Myths of Violence and Female Storytelling in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Kate Atkinson’s Human Croquet

Samanta Trivellini    Università degli Studi di Parma, Italia    

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abstract

Stories of violence and oppression from classical mythology and fairy tales are redeployed in two novels by Atwood (1985) and Atkinson (1997) as archetypal pre-texts that impact on plot and narrative process. Although they are very different in genre and theme, both novels present first-person female narrators who are trapped in a claustrophobic present, and pose the question of the extent to which a story can be told from within the boundaries traced by myth, fairy tales and quasi-mythical literary texts. Clearly indebted to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Handmaid’s Tale depicts a dystopian world where women live segregated by a male regime. References to the tale of Little Red Cap, classical myths and ceremonies are embedded in the text and reveal the story as a narrative that replicates the oppressive structure in which the female protagonist is imprisoned. On the other hand, Atkinson’s Human Croquet is a metafictional family saga where Ovidian imagery, fairy tales and Shakespearean texts shape throughout the hyperliterate narrator’s vision of the world, leaving her (and the reader) with a sense of inescapable and at times threatening déjà-vu. Besides the connections between myths of violence and plots, the essay will highlight the structuring principle of repetition, which in both works emerges as a form of epistemic violence that tragically questions or diminishes the narrative voice.

Published
Sept. 30, 2016
Accepted
June 21, 2016
Submitted
April 8, 2016
Language
EN

Keywords: MythKate AtkinsonFairy talesMargaret Atwood

Copyright: © 2016 Samanta Trivellini. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.