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Atwood’s short story “Bluebeard’s Egg” Essay

Atwood’s Bluebeard’s Egg is a narrative that supports the theme of perception being a human characteristic which only presents the truth the particular person wants to believe. The first evidence of this appears in Sally’s description of Edward, her husband, who by her thoughts is a “dumb blond” that need her protection and intelligence to survive. “At set intervals an angel appears, bringing him food. That’s fine with Ed who hardly notices what he eats, but the angel is getting tired of being an angel” (168, prgh1) We get this image of the “caring wife” protecting a not-so-intelligent husband out of love and pity.

This is Sally’s perception of the truth. On the other hand we see her immaturity in her diction (“heart-men” “fix their hearts”, “looked like a giant-fig”) which shows her ignorance of her husband’s line of work which is substantially difficult and requires intelligence and dedication that few people possess. This is why the readers start to doubt Sally’s truth and at this point we side with the other “some” who say that he is “intelligent and even brilliant, otherwise how can he be so successful”? (151, last pgh) This first conflict that takes place in the readers themselves furthers the theme of the story. Who can we trust and why?

Sally’s perception is the lense that we see the story through, but without it we wouldn’t have a vision at all. So we have to take her reality and decide which truth we want to believe. Ed’s truth of a middle-age well-off physician with a beautiful, young wife who “doesn’t care much for anything” except the nice routine of his life. Or Marylynn’s perception of a liberal, independent and confident woman who doesn’t need a husband to enjoy her life. Or finally Sally’s desperate attempt to hold on to her perfect life – married to a wealthy handsome but not-so-smart husband who provides a normal “happy” life for her.

The point in the story where Sally catches her husband and her best friend crossing that line of appropriateness, is when she realizes that her perception of what was real was actually all wrong from the begging. This sudden crack in her “perfect” life threatens the very foundations of an her seemingly stable universe. “Sally has been wrong about Ed, for years, forever.” (182) This is a crucial moment in the story as it shows Sally’s epiphany and provides a mysterious moment as to what she was going to do – face her husband and her best friend, or try to ignore it in order to save her marriage, her security blanket. “Sally puts down the spatula, wipes her hand on the hand-towel, puts her arms around him, holds on tighter that she should.” (183, 3rd prgh) This is the image we get – of Sally trying to hold on to her illusory reality.

In a way the egg in the story is the truth that humans seek but the truth is covered by the hard protective shell and only people who go beyond the surface and look for change can get to the core – to the truth which provides liberation. The structure of the story with the old “Bluebeard” tale in the middle of this new story reminds me of the egg which was once created and now has a life inside itself and will create in its turn. “Sally thinks the egg is alive, and one day it will hatch. But what will come out of it?” (184, 1st prgh)

This relates to Atwood’s contemplating of the “creative process”. Like in other poems by her, we see the birth of new concepts from the roots of our very own creation. This also compares to the ways in which our engagement with a text, the act of reading literature, corresponds to “reading” reality. Atwood’s story suggests that in both instances, “guesswork” or “intuition” is as fundamental as close analysis. But whether our interpretation of the story is intuitive or analytical, the outcome is an unending quest after an illusory truth because nothing is what it seems.

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