Margaret Atwood is a Canadian author and poet who frequently focuses on important themes such as feminism, environmentalism, and the dangers of fundamentalist ideologies. She is most well-known for her writings about dystopian societies, and the dangers that create them.
Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in 1939. Her father was a forest entomologist, and because of this, Atwood spent a lot of her childhood in the forest studying nature, which arguably inspires her environmental activism later in life.
Atwood’s writing career began in 1961 with the publication of a book of poems called Double Persephone. Her first novel, The Edible Woman was published in 1969, revealing her first strong female character with an existential crisis, unhappy with the world she’s been forced into. Atwood’s female characters from this point forward often find themselves suffering, usually because they are at odds with the world around them. However, they do not suffer in silence or alone: they often find friends, confidants, or confidence in themselves to speak out.
Atwood is perhaps best known for her dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale published in 1985, the year after George Orwell’s dystopian novel was supposed to have taken place. It was in contemplating Orwell’s novel that Atwood found herself inspired to write about a world that was taken over by fundamentalists, a world where women had no say in the face of their male counterparts. Women in the novel were forced to live in this totalitarian society and breed for the couples in power who could not have children. Much like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Atwood was inspired and disgusted by the actions of her Puritan ancestors, and a rebellion against fundamentalism can be seen across many pieces of her writing, including her poem, “Half-Hanged Mary.”
Atwood has also delved into what she calls “Speculative Fiction” rather than “Science Fiction.” Her most well-known works in this genre include the MaddAddam Trilogy, which such novels as Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and MaddAddam. These novels chronicle a dystopian society in a post-apocalyptic world brought on by a disease manufactured in a lab and released on humanity in a pill form.
Because Atwood’s works span themes that always seem to be topical in modern society, many of her books have been turned into TV shows and movies. In recent years, she has delved into the emerging graphic novel genre with the Angel Catbird series.
Atwood currently lives in Toronto with her partner, fellow author Graeme Gibson.