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The Analysis of Margaret Atwood’s “True North”

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In the essay, “True North,” Margaret Atwood articulates explicitly that the real north is a dangerous and overwhelming environment for anyone to approach or interact with. Atwood also argues vigorously that the consequence of entering the north is deleterious. In the essay, Atwood begins by suggest that the definition of “north” varies among different people from different places. However, Atwood explains that her north, the “True North,” is the location of her hometown, a place of wilderness where nature is the main theme. Nature, as Atwood describes, is an inhabitable environment that carries extreme hostility toward human, and human’s power is futile in front of the nature.

Yet, the table has turned when humans acquired new technology. Ironically, as humans become the bully, they are trying to save the nature that is trying to kill the humans. Ironically, these people have never seen and experience the relentlessness of the north. Despite the competing general claims in Atwood’s essay, she provides well-established and influential supports that identify the mercilessness of the nature that prey on human beings. Also, Atwood’s convincing argument on the north builds an interesting contradictory position between the north and humans.

According to Atwood, the location up north is an extremely startling place where no one wants to get near to and Atwood initiates her argument by showing several definitions for the location of north. As suggests in the short story, North could either be a place, a direction, or a feeling; nevertheless, despite all the other descriptions, to Atwood, the true north is a hazardous place that repels human beings. “Now it’s the Near North Travel Area…. We don’t want to be near. We want to be far.” (True North, pp. 19) Like Atwood characterizes, north is defined as a location where no one should get close. In order to strengthen her claims, Atwood goes further by suggesting that this repelling force is created purposely by nature to prevent humans from coming. “As we proceed, the farms become fewer, rockier, more desperate-looking, the trees change their ratios, coniferous moving in on deciduous.” (True North, pp. 14) As the north is closer, the land becomes harder for people to reside and trees occupy more lands than humans. The ideas that Atwood proposes not only provide attributes of what the “true north” is, but also differentiate the “true north” from other opinions about north.

Atwood builds much of her arguments with examples that explain the aggression of the north to support her definition on the “True North.” Here, Atwood demonstrates that the north shields itself to prevent people from approaching. “Off the road is other. Try walking in it, and you’ll find out why all the early traffic here was by water. ‘Impenetrable wilderness’ is not just verbal.” (True North, pp. 34) The nature forms an intensive pressure ravage upon any people who enter it. Yet, other than the disturbing pressure, Atwood also suggests more reason that why people should not get near to the north by portraying a dark atmosphere within the nature. “…but getting lost in the forest is worse. It’s tangly in there, and dim, and one tree does begin to look remarkably like another…and you begin to feel watched…” (True North, pp. 36) When someone intrudes the nature, a pressure of being watched is created, and it feels like something will attack the intruder anytime. By creating a haunted and unsociable mood that expands throughout the story, Atwood explains north’s hostility and isolation; furthermore, she reveals that it’s nature’s animosity toward humans which makes the north a hostile environment.

Atwood extends her analysis further by showing the denouement that north has for those careless people who enter its domain. Atwood implies that the north possesses a mystery that causes enormous mental effects on people who have interacted with it; or more so, nature’s pressure has driven them insane. “…Mad Trapper of Rat River, also mysterious, who became so thoroughly bushed that he killed a Mountie and show two others… One of the motifs in these stories is a warning: maybe it’s not so good to get too close to North.” (True North, pp. 43) Even though Mad Trapper survives the north’s evilness, the north left a remarkable mental effect in his mind and drove him crazy. As Atwood implies, even if people are able to breakthrough the repelling force, the unpleasant atmosphere the nature creates is making the environment physically and mentally unendurable.

To solidify the argument, Atwood presents dependable evidences that determine the environment in the north is a violent and lifeless ground; through vest of examples, she prompts the reader to realize the overwhelming power possesses by the nature to make humans suffer. Even Indians abandon the land because they are not able to withstand the suffering. “The Canadian Shield is a relatively foodless area, which is why even the Indians tended to pass through it…” (True North, pp. 38) The pressure created by the north is so strong that even Indians, the natural settlers of the wild territory, cannot bear with the austerity and lifelessness in the north.

Atwood also suggest that the land of the north is like a death trap where people will be executed easily and death is inevitable. “There is death from starvation, death by animal, death by forest fire, there is death from something called ‘exposure…’ There’s death by thunderstorm… Above all, there are death by freezing and death by drowning.” (True North, pp. 42) With several examples, Atwood’s powerful statements propose that humans are worthless in the eyes of the nature. Humans are to be tortured by the nature severely inside the nature, the “True North.”

Atwood exposes the inanimate side of characteristic and suggest that the “True North” is an extremely ruthless environment that destroys any human beings mentally and physically. It is no doubt that nature is a hazardous domain where humans are easy victims of the nature.

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. “True North.” The Norton Reader: Shorter 10th Edition. Ed. Linda H. Peterson, John C. Brereton, and Joan E. Hartman. New York: WW Norton, 2000. (91 – 101)

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