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The Use Of Perspective in The Blind Assassin

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The brilliant tapestry in The Blind Assassin is classic Margaret Atwood.  It is a story-within-a-story, a novel-within-a-novel interwoven in one beautifully crafted literary piece.

The story, set in fictional Ontario and Toronto towns in the 1930s and 1940s, is told in the perspective of the narrator as well as perspective of history through newspaper clippings.  Initially, it seems that the plot is going to be told chiefly in a telegraphic way through a series of newspaper cut-outs.  With these, the reader is treated to a series of fatalities.  First, is the tragic death of Laura Chase who drove a car off a bridge when she was only 25 years old.  Second, is the death of Richard Griffen and then Aimee Griffen, 30 years later.

This string of deaths is linked by one old woman—Iris Chase, the story’s narrator.  Iris is Laura’s sister, Richard’s wife, and Aimee’s mother.  Now in her 80s with a weak heart starting to fail her, she writes about the circumstances of their deaths.  The lengthy narrative is told in the first person, through the perspective of Iris.

Atwood uses Iris and newspaper clippings to detail flashbacks.  As Iris tells her story and those around her, the clippings also unveil the mystery that surrounds their death.  This is an effective tool because as the mysteries grow thick, it becomes impossible to put the book down (Richards, par. 2).

Atwood seems to be giving her readers unanswered questions and plays with them.  She uses Iris to give a sense of drama and nostalgia and the clippings to provide history that will support these emotions.

It is to the late Laura that the authorship of the novel is attributed, with a posthumous publication date of 1947 (par. 6).  As Iris writes, it is Laura who touches people and not her.

The story also details the love affair between a wealthy woman and a man hiding out from the law.  Their story is told in installments throughout the novel and in time oddly emerges as a strange metaphor for the lives outside of Iris’ and Laura’s.

In this novel, it seems that Atwood treated her readers to at least two different worlds:  the world of Iris told in historical detail and the world of fantasy of the fictional lovers.  All of these interwoven in one novel makes Atwood’s plot horribly complicated and convoluted but Atwood effortlessly pull it off (par. 10).

The Blind Assassin showcases Atwood’s excellent story weaving powers.  The dizzying start—drawing readers through decades-old flashbacks in the eyes of the narrator and clippings—suddenly becomes dazzling and then eventually compelling.

Atwood’s use of the narrator’s perspective gives the tale a human face.  It provides readers with the emotions present in an event that are in fact decades-old.  This first-person narrative effectively brings readers to that place and that moment where the characters move.  Through Iris’ perspective, all personas voices are heard.  All of the personas’ stories are told and given life.

Through the narrator’s perspective, the complex tales of the characters are also given color. Through Iris, Atwood creatively led her audience to events in history like the optimism in the 1920s, the hunger and fear during the Great Depression and the political unrest during the late 1940s.  Atwood, through Iris, also gave the readers physical details such as clothing and general modes of life during those times (par. 8).

The newspaper clippings, for their part, gave readers a detailed account surrounding the characters’ death.  It was these little cut-outs that unveiled the mysteries.  Every now and then, the readers will get the impression of “Oh…so that was how it happened.”  The clippings provided answers to questions like “why Iris feels a certain way about how things turned out.”

Even the passages from the novel (also called The Blind Assassin) that is included in Iris’ memories gave the readers metaphorical references.  Atwood somehow intertwined the lives of the fictional lovers with that of those in Iris’ circle.  The novel was Atwood’s creative way of telling a story-within-a-story.

The Blind Assassin is like a showcase of Atwood’s many literary techniques.  There is history and snippets of poetry within one complex text.  It’s like a little bit of the styles Atwood experimented with through the years (par. 10).

The classic novel, to which Atwood gained a mythical status as a literary genius, offered the epic tale of one family through different standpoints and various angles.  The novel that seemed cerebrally confusing at first was resolved through the lens of the clippings, the fictional novel, and Iris—meaning through history, fantasy, and emotions. Atwood’s The Blind Assassin is a masterpiece both in the standards of craftsmanship and storytelling.

The mosaic resulted to a breathtaking journey into the personas’ past and the gripping revelation of the mysteries that surround it.  The diverse perspectives and points of views Atwood utilized were beautifully interwoven in one classical whole.  The rhetorical device Atwood used made The Blind Assassin more than just another story of a family in the 1930s.  Through this literary strategy, the novel became an insightful account into a tragic past and the painful journey towards making sense of that past.

Works Cited:

Richards, Linda.  “Brilliant Tapestry.”  January Magazine.  (Oct. 2000).  8 Oct. 2007.


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