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Research Article

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.

Keywords: Margaret Atwood. Kate Atkinson. Myth. Fairy tales.

Language: en

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

permalink: http://doi.org/10.14277/2499-1562/AnnOc-50-16-18

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