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1 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

Cat's Eye

by

Cat's Eye Cover

ISBN13: 9780385491020
ISBN10: 0385491026
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

ABOUT THIS BOOK
Considered to be her most autobiographical work, Cat's Eye, Margaret Atwood's critically acclaimed seventh novel, is the story of Elaine Risley, the daughter of a forest entomologist and controversial artist in her fifties who returns to Toronto for a retrospective of her work. In her moment of professional glory, she becomes consumed by vivid images of her past, especially those of Cordelia, her best friend and emotional counterpart who waged lavish cruelties on her as a girl. Atwood employs her wry humor, rich irony, and keen eye for detail in a brilliant exploration of the treacherous terrain of girlhood and the historical geography of Toronto from the 1940s to the 1980s.

FOR DISCUSSION
1. What does Margaret Atwood's novel Cat's Eye say about the nature of childhood and the development of adolescent friendships? Is there a gender influenced difference in cruelty between boys as opposed to cruelty as expressed by girls? At what point does adolescent meanness become pathological?

2. In the opening line of the novel, the narrator, artist Elaine Risley, who returns to the city of her birth for a retrospective of her painting, observes: "Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space . . . if you knew enough and could move faster than light you could travel backward in time and exist in two places at once." How do you interpret this statement? Why does Elaine return to Toronto and what does she hope to accomplish? Was the trip necessary? If so, why? What role does this return play in the structure of the novel?

3. Elaine is haunted by Cordelia, her "best friend" and the tormentor of her childhood. All predators must have a motive. What benefit did Cordelia receive out of tormenting Elaine? What weakness in Elaine made her particularly vulnerable to Cordelia? Why did she continue to play such importance in Elaine's adult life?

4. Discuss the impact of the type of parenting received by Elaine, Cordelia, and their third friend, Grace. At one point Elaine's mother tells her that she does not have to be with the girls that are tormenting her. Is her mother in any way responsible for what happened to Elaine? What role do you feel parents should play in helping resolve childhood conflicts or in protecting their children?

5. Early in the novel, Elaine is warned by her first new friend, Carol, not to go down into the ravine: "There might be men there." Discuss the significance of this warning, taking into account the later incident between the girls at the ravine. What does this say about our ability to apprehend danger? In what other Atwood novels does she explore the nature of evil and its relationship to gender?

6. Why do you think Elaine became an artist? What is the significance that she did so? Do artists use life experiences in ways nonartists do not?

7. Many of Atwood's themes are first explored in her poetry. We have included two poems from The Circle Game, her award-winning first volume of poetry, published in 1966. How are some of the themes of these poems later developed in Cat's Eye? Atwood is one of the few writers who is successful as both a poet and a novelist. Can you think of others?

8. A review of Cat's Eye by Judith Thurman suggests that a connection exists between sex and childhood games. Discuss this, as well as the significance of the book's title.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College. The daughter of a forest entomologist, Atwood spent a large part of her childhood in the Canadian wilderness. At the age of six she began to write "poems, morality plays, comic books, and an unfinished novel about an ant." At sixteen she found that writing was "suddenly the only thing I wanted to do." Throughout her career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and several honorary degrees including the Canadian Governor General's Award, Le Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France, and the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature. She is the author of more than thirty volumes of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, including children's books, and short stories. Her most recent works include The Handmaid's Tale (1986), Cat's Eye (1989), and Alias Grace (1996), the story collection Good Bones and Simple Murders (1994), and a volume of poetry, Morning in the Burned House (1995). Ms. Atwood's work has been published in more than twenty-five countries. She has traveled extensively and has lived in Boston, Vancouver, Montreal, London, Provence, Berlin, and Edinburgh. Margaret Atwood now lives in Toronto with novelist Graeme Gibson and their daughter.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 4 comments:

Janet McPherson, September 7, 2011 (view all comments by Janet McPherson)
My favorite book by Margaret Atwood. Her insights about the realtionships girls have with other girls while growing up are so accurate. Along with To Kill a Mockingbird, one of those books I have read several times and never get tired of.
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Janet McPherson, January 4, 2010 (view all comments by Janet McPherson)
I've never read a more accurate account of how women treat each other, starting early in life. I've read it four times and like it more each time.
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carver, October 9, 2009 (view all comments by carver)
I have vastly enjoyed every book Margaret Atwood has ever written. However Cat's Eye was also nostalgic for me because I was born the same year Margaret Atwood was born. Even though she is from Canada and I from Oklahoma it was amazing to me how much our childhood's seemed the same. This book is absolutely true for curly haired girls born in 1939!
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780385491020
Author:
Atwood, Margaret
Publisher:
Anchor Books
Author:
Atwood, Margaret Eleanor
Location:
New York :
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
Friendship
Subject:
Girls
Subject:
Psychological fiction
Subject:
Toronto
Subject:
Women painters
Subject:
Toronto (Ont.) Fiction.
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
no. 57
Publication Date:
19980131
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
480
Dimensions:
8 x 5.1 x 1 in .7625 lb

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Cat's Eye Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$4.50 In Stock
Product details 480 pages Anchor Books - English 9780385491020 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

This is my favorite out of all Margaret Atwood's books. It tells the story so convincingly of the cruelty and competition between young girls as viewed by the now older narrator Elaine. Complex and disturbing, Cat's Eye is a momentous book from one of Canada's most talented and provocative writers.

"Review" by , "The best book in a long time on female friendships... Cat's Eye is remarkable, funny, and serious, brimming with uncanny wisdom."
"Review" by , "A brilliant, three-dimensional mosaic...the story of Elaine's childhood is so real and heartbreaking you want to stand up in your seat and cheer."
"Review" by , "Stunning...Atwood conceives Elaine with a poet's transforming fire; and delivers her to us that way, a flame inside an icicle."
"Synopsis" by , Cat's Eye is the story of Elaine Risley, a controversial painter who returns to Toronto, the city of her youth, for a retrospective of her art. Engulfed by vivid images of the past, she reminisces about a trio of girls who initiated her into the fierce politics of childhood and its secret world of friendship, longing, and betrayal. Elaine must come to terms with her own identity as a daughter, a lover, an artist, and a woman--but above all she must seek release from her haunting memories. Disturbing, hilarious, and compassionate, Cat's Eye is a breathtaking novel of a woman grappling with the tangled knot of her life.
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