Margaret Eleanor Atwood Quotes

Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space.

Margaret Eleanor Atwood

Possibly the symbol for America is the Frontier† The corresponding symbol for England is the Island† The central symbol for Canada†is undoubtedly Survival, la Survivance.

Margaret Eleanor Atwood

For every age there is a popular idea about what madness is, what causes it, and how a mad person should look and behave; and it is usually these popular ideas, rather than those of medical professionals, that turn up in songs and stories and plays and books.

Margaret Eleanor Atwood

However, there are all sorts of behaviours in the Bible that might be called mad now, but aren't designated as insanity by the text itself. People see visions of angels going up and down ladders, of fiery chariots and, like Moses, who hears a bush talking, and Balaam the prophet who has a conversation with his donkey, they hear voices of those who cannot be said to be present in any usual sense of the word. They also speak in tongues, as the disciples do at Pentecost. Like madness, the visions, the voices and the speaking in tongues are due to external and usually divine agencies. In a world so permeated with supernatural powers, there are no accidents, and in one so riddled with prophets who went into a frenzy while prophesying many more kinds of behaviour were accepted as normal, at least for a prophet or an inspired person, than would be the case now. John the Baptist, dressed in animal skins and wandering around in the wilderness denouncing his social superiors, was not thought of as a de-institutionalized street person who's gone off his medications, but as a saint. And this was the pattern for mediaeval views of aberrant behaviour if you were acting crazy it was a divine punishment, or else you were possessed, by powers either divine or demonic perhaps aided, in the latter case, by witches.

Margaret Eleanor Atwood

I did not know that the rules about these things were different if you were female. I did not know that "poetess" was an insult, and that I myself would some day be called one. I did not know that to be told I had transcended my gender would be considered a compliment. I didn't know yet that black was compulsory. All of that was in the future. When I was sixteen, it was simple. Poetry existed; therefore it could be written; and nobody had told me yet the many, many reasons why it could not be written by me.

Margaret Eleanor Atwood

To live in prison is to live without mirrors. To live without mirrors is to live without the self. She is living selflessly, she finds a hole in the stone wall and on the other side of the wall, a voice. The voice comes through darkness and has no face. This voice becomes her mirror.

Margaret Eleanor Atwood

War is what happens when language fails.

Margaret Eleanor Atwood

As I was writing about Grace Marks, and about her interlude in the Asylum, I came to see her in context the context of other people's opinions, both the popular images of madness and the scientific explanations for it available at the time. A lot of what was believed and said on the subject appears like sheer lunacy to us now. But we shouldn't be too arrogant how many of our own theories will look silly when those who follow us have come up with something better? But whatever the scientists may come up with, writers and artists will continue to portray altered mental states, simply because few aspects of our nature fascinate people so much. The so-called mad person will always represent a possible future for every member of the audience who knows when such a malady may strike? When "mad," at least in literature, you aren't yourself; you take on another self, a self that is either not you at all, or a truer, more elemental one than the person you're used to seeing in the mirror. You're in danger of becoming, in Shakespeare's works, a mere picture or beast, and in Susanna Moodie's words, a mere machine; or else you may become an inspired prophet, a truth-sayer, a shaman, one who oversteps the boundaries of the ordinarily visible and audible, and also, and especially, the ordinarily sayable. Portraying this process is deep power for the artist, partly because it's a little too close to the process of artistic creation itself, and partly because the prospect of losing our self and being taken over by another, unfamiliar self is one of our deepest human fears.

Margaret Eleanor Atwood

In the interests of research I have walked on many battlefields that once were liquid with pulped mens bodies and spangled with exploded shells and splayed bone. All of them have been green again by the time I got there. Each has inspired a few good quotes in its day. Sad marble angels brood like hens over the grassy nests where nothing hatches.

Margaret Eleanor Atwood

If I roll my eyes and mutter, if I clutch at my heart and scream in horror like a third-rate actress chewing up a mad scene, I do it in private and nobody sees but the bathroom mirror.

Margaret Eleanor Atwood

A divorce is like an amputation; you survive, but theres less of you.

Margaret Eleanor Atwood

When women let their hair down, it means either sexiness or craziness or death, the three by Victorian times having become virtually synonymous.

Margaret Eleanor Atwood

Confess: its my profession that alarms you. This is why few people ask me to dinner, though Lord knows I dont go out of my way to be scary.

Margaret Eleanor Atwood

We tend to think of Freud as a great innovator, but the truth is that he himself rested, like a ship on an iceberg, on a huge body of theory and knowledge which had accumulated before his time. Even the famous Unconscious had made its appearance at least seven decades earlier. As for such supposedly modern phenomena as multiple personalities, the vogue for them began in the first half of the nineteenth century; and the first case in which the perpetrator of a murder pleaded amnesia, and got off, was in the eighteen eighties.

Margaret Eleanor Atwood

For a thousand years, the Bible was almost the only book people read, if they could read at all. The stories that were officially told and portrayed were Biblical and religious stories. That other fount of Western civilization as we know it today the Greek classics went largely unknown until the Renaissance. For our purposes, there's a noteworthy difference between these two literatures: in the Bible people are hardly ever said to be mad as such, whereas in Greek drama they go off their rockers with alarming frequency. It was the rediscovery of the classics that stimulated the long procession of literary madpeople of the past four hundred years.

Margaret Eleanor Atwood

For every age there is a popular idea about what madness is, what causes it, and how a mad person should look and behave; and it's usually these popular ideas, rather than those of medical professionals, that turn up in songs and stories and plays and books.

Margaret Eleanor Atwood
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