S. Mohan Raj Assistant Professor The Indo-American College, Cheyyar, Tamil Nadu
ABSTRACT Nature nurture human community and civilization for ages, nature is the cause of human emergence and evolution. From the past of human history, nature hailed as feminine. Ecofeminists’ focus and relates and analyses the ways of oppressions and devalues faced by women and nature. I would like to present the reminiscence of Ecofeminism in Surfacing novel. Atwood express Ecofeminism through an anonymous female protagonist (narrator). The narrator explores nature as glimpses of wilderness; actually women encountered the real wilderness in the hands of cultured men. Modern science torments nature to extract her powers, ‘land’ here is the subject of Ecofeminism. Degeneration of nature and women, are alike, related and contemporary. Suffered, wounded feministic views replaces with ecofeministic views to come over violation, subjugation and suppression. Women were traditionally closer to Earth, their physic are sites for environmental stress on all levels of grounds. ‘Hope making life taking’ related with ecology found in Atwood’s novel, Surfacing. Key Words: Ecofeminism, Environment, Ecology, nationalism, nature and liberation. 1. Introduction 1.1 Ecology and Ecofeminism Nature nurture human community and civilization for ages, nature is the cause of human emergence and evolution, by its magnitude nature offers life source and seat for humane growth. Nature holds the key to aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction”, says E.O.Wilson. Human thoughts, feelings and emotions seeded, imagination clouded with nature. People evidenced the reflection and reciprocation of their mentality in nature and literature. Natural sceneries bestowed refreshment, relaxation and rejenuation from conceptual worries, whereas poets devised imagination, references from nature; any minim alteration of nature detours as subject matters. From the past of human history, nature deemed as feminine. Ecofeminists focus and relates these connections and analyses the ways of oppressions and devalues faced by women and nature. „Eco‟ with more general sense denotes environment and natural habitats. Ecofeminism is a philosophical and political theory, movement that blends ecological concerns with feminist ones. In nutshell ecology mingles with feminism, moulded as Ecofeminism; a literary genre. Ecofeminism is thus called to be philology links feminism and ecology. Nature of Ecofeminists is to track deep connections between women and nature, with an illustration of repression and exploitation in terms of environment. „Speciesism‟ states the notion that human animals are superior to other animals, since man declared as social animal have certain animalistic qualities which resulted in dominated patriarchal society. Feminism rebels against, whereas Ecofeminism exploits the subjugations of nature and women. I am intend to perceive the relics of Ecofeminism in the novel Surfacing (1972) by Canadian writer Margaret Atwood. Patriarchal western society treated women as inferior to men; also valued „culture‟ as superior to nature. Pseudo culture negotiates and neglect natural existence of human survival, by then violates the natural humanity (by plundering women rights and ill-treatment) in artificial decorum. They (dominating Male society) marked that pseudo decorum as „culture‟. Ecofeminists underlined patriarchal society stands over four pillars viz sexism, racism, class exploitation and environmental seduction. I would like to present the reminiscence of Ecofeminism in Surfacing.
Some analysis says, patriarchy emerge from the western ideology of dualism i.e. world is divided into pairs as male-female, mindbody, spirit-matter etc, those patriarchal disciples manure an hierarchy as God, Man, Women, Children, Animals and Nature. 2. Patriarchy, wilderness and Ecofeminism 2.2 Free puppets of men Nature closely associate with Women rather than Men, the existence of human race on Earth is possible with the presence of feminine gender. Survival of humane and its dominion on environment fixed with women, but western patriarchal belief adhoc „male‟ with the amenity of reason and analysis; „female‟ as passive, weak, irrational by anatomy. Valour and prowess of men conceal innate intelligence of women and made them isle with the weakness. Gandhi said “To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is an injustice to woman”. Crew (men) invades and evade both nature and women benifactoring their passive nature in pretence of protection and culture. Surfacing novel gripped this notion, undercurrent present and represents Ecofeminism along with psychological aspects. It was d‟Eoubonne conceived the term „Ecofeminism‟ as a connection of the ecology and women in 1947. “Ecofeminism is an activist and academic movement that see a critical connection between the domination of the nature and the exploration of women”, Lois Ann Lorentez. Atwood express the connection through an anonymous female protagonist (narrator) in her novel. The narrator explores nature as glimpses of wilderness; actually women encountered the real wilderness in the hands of cultured men. Women were subject to play pivotal role, have responsibilities, which never permit them to access any power to achieve and attain. Women turned as „free puppets‟ for men. Surfacing is the second novel of Atwood later adopted into film in 1981, the female narrator explore the humiliations and overcome, beneath natural, pastoral set back. Her mind is wavering, quarreling and chaotic out of identity, liberty crisis with personal tortures. The presence of lake water, its waves, rushes and gush reciprocate her waffling mind, yo-yo thoughts and turmoil state, “The Sea is emotion incarnate. It loves, hates and weeps”, says Christopher Polini. The narrator wants to fix an identity at least, but her rootless state made her lined and irrelevant thinker. The writer kept her unnamed to figure out the universal suffering as a representative. Atwood present the ecological query (burning situation) of the environment. The novel‟s events limn in the province of Quebec, (East central Canada state) wants to become an independent French speaking nation. The situational alarm and upheaval resembles the conflicts of narrator, she begins a psychological journey, into the natural world. Environmental crisis around the narrator is nationalism; inner crisis is imagerism with nature expressed as Ecofeminism. 3. Anonymous narrator and ecofeministic contra Nature of the narrator is indifferent, she is English speaking lady, free lancer and disconnected from all the people around her, exasperation made her isolated and never equating herself as a normal human nor a woman. Atwood‟s narrator can be compared with Sylvia Plath‟s The Bell Jar narrator Esther Greenwood; both are subject to psychological breakdowns. Both are unwill to attair the social demands laid on them. Roles are enforced on women, to be daughter, wife, mother and plaything of men. They never had a chance to be „their own‟ in their lives. Atwood questions women‟s conventional role, social and sexual role, also about the hormonal contraception. Men try to control women, which in turn collapse the psychological mechanism and led them to face ecological imbalance. Atwood‟s narrator loose her nature twice in the wilderness, she conceived and forced to abort (her life hope) by her pseudo husband, later she was seduced by David; these incidents affect her psyche and physic, led her to imbalance. The pastoral nature around her never soothe her mind, indeed adds fuel to her wrath mind. Margaret‟s choice of unnamed narrator is ambiguous; maybe she takes it as granted to evaluate feminism and Ecofeminism. Atwood express the ways how women are cornered and marginalized in their personal and professional lives. The ecological background of the novel (Quebec) affects the narrator; there is existing cultural difference between the parts of Quebec and the rest of Canada. She detached from her surroundings, equaling it with wilderness. Rising nationalism set as irk for the rising action in the novel. Narrator‟s wilderness and madness rises with the support of her ecology (forest wilderness) - here the Ecofeminism works. Alertness, alarm, fear, suspicion along with rotting feminal roots makes her down. She never shares her thoughts, she considered communication and language are inutile and shrink her. This is against nature, she face ecological imbalance, and for her no one is fit to share herself. Even her close circuit Anna, failed to be inmate and intimate friend. Anna obeys the ethos (what said as tradition for women) and feminine ecology; completely surrender herself to her cruel husband David (chauvinistic dictator). Her environment, ecology centered with David, she never think beyond, her rebel thoughts ends with mind words. She accepts the ways of David as a mode to rule her. Atwood presents ecofeministic contra with Anna and the narrator. 4. Ecology blends with feminism 4.1 Psychological toil and ecological background Nature of a traditional novel is applicable to Surfacing, though not complete but in fragments. Atwood may had a national concern as it seems she experienced her ecological happenings, as a woman she wants to pen script her thoughts of nationalism (ecology) along with blend of feminism. “Nature always wears the colour of the spirit” says Ralph Waldo Emerson. Atwood‟s „nature‟ about nature surpasses her thoughts of feminism; she hates the artificial decoration (destruction) of the environment. Surfacing novel born in an environment of colonialism (when it was published) and post world war II. Actually it was the time when Canada face a colonial issue; Quebec protest against the cultural inferiority of America, which is a form of colonization. The sufferers of the ecology were women rather than men. Atwood wants to relate, how the inner conflict and
ecological conflicts tormented women and its rhetro action, along with the feministic thoughts. Three edged irk, necked the narrator of the novel; psychological abuse of men, ecology tatters her feminine and revolutionist thoughts. Ecofeminism works here the novel predates the environmentalist movement. The narrator turn rage (as she also suffered personally) with the American tourists who overfish, did hunt for sport and mess the nature around. Nature kindles her and the narrator had a strong vision of her ecology, she feels a sort of protection from nature and she wants to protect nature. She had illusions out of confused mind but still, she had a concern about her environment. The narrator said, she hate men, especially Americans. For her the world war is an outlet of men‟s inherent violence, which plunder a ransom of nature and human lives. In this manner Atwood obeys the norms of Ecofeminism as said by Mary, “Ecofeminism…sees a connection between the exploitation and degradation of natural world and…oppression of women”. For the narrator men quench their emotions with environmental things; for them women is a toy to quench their sensual, sexual lust and thirst. For her just living is a challenging task, narrator toils hard to come over her psyche breakdown and from ecological pressure. For Anna she tussle to won her husband‟s care and to enjoy her environment. Feminine in the novel face famine; both narrator and Anna expects „rain‟ to make them fresh. The masculine characters in the novel are self centered especially David, who crush his wife for his lust. Even narrator‟s father is careless, who left his daughter and went do some research in the remote place near Quebec, Canada. Even though the narrator hold courage as her barring guard, often it was checked a shattered by the dear ones (especially men) around her life circle. Here Atwood bring ecofeministic view in narrator‟s characterization. 5. Liberation and sovereign of wilderness Nature of narrator turns emotionally imbalance, senseless who tries to isle her and to liberate her from the clutches. “Nothing is the same. I don‟t know the way anymore” (p.10). The „old road‟ and „new road‟ denotes in the novel destruction. Any women supposed to face living roles, which evade her own-self. For the narrator living with these roles and living in society is a burden and she moves towards freedom, as said by Hans Christian Anderson “Just living is not enough…one must have sunshine, freedom…” Economical liberation is the cause and major claim of feminism. Cultural liberation and social liberation are highlighted by the narrator in her environment. She makes herself isolated and alien from her life parts (naturally lay on women). Grief is the part she evidenced from her atmosphere and ecology. Already her soul is longing for liberty and now she demands liberty from human bounds. All the normal happenings around her turned abnormal to her. She hesitates to talk with people, even to have friendly talks. She wants to be in wilderness (natural ecology, which she consider as real). Forced duties including sexual life made her grief, she needs solitude, and she wants to become an animal with no bounds. So she slipped off her dress and stroll aimlessly in the wilderness, she reflects ecofeministic view just as said by Roman Payne “She was free in her wilderness. She was a wanderess, a drop of free water”. Atwood creates a deep connection between the sovereign of nature and its impact on women. Women for ages compared with birds; birds are caged, given care and affection but the fact is birds are imprisoned. Likewise women interlocked with the Men‟s domination. 6. Wilderness and artificial ecology Nature predominates human; but human daydreamed that they surpassed nature. In Surfacing novel „nature‟ refers the narrator, her ecology (especially men) tries to dominate her but she unrailed herself. Thus the novel turned as an evidence for Ecofeminism. The narrator estimate beasts as „pure creation‟ without any reason, except for their natural wilderness. Those grateful creatures stay calm with nature environment and ecology. The narrator never speaks with Joe (her boy friend) in the wilderness, out of love he wants to accompany her. For the narrator „wilderness‟ (nature) is permanent (as like women); whereas artificial ecology (men domination) is unreal and impermanent. As an ecofeministic protagonist she completely aware of nature and shut her mouth in wild ecology. Her hatred of language made her to swear not to teach language to her child. Animals have complete freedom, they co-exist but never depend, dominate nature and feminine. Actual reason for her collapse is her miscarriage and disappointment. She got pregnant by her art master, who forced her to abort. She did so with heavy heart; out of his compulsion and to sustain his love. She wants to surrender her love and live passionate life with the artistic background. But he betrayed her, he just wants her to be with him, accompany him without life commitment. Meanwhile she learn about her father‟s abscond. All these pulled her down in distress, turn her clumsy; she felt solace only at wilderness (nature). Here she stands as a real ecofeministic female protagonist. 7. Emotional numbness: psychological transformation 7.1 Mask of Misanthropy Nature and feministic concern had its ecology concern, Atwood recapitulate them. The narrator: natural woman, ecofriendly, universal portrait of women. Anna‟s portrayal was remorseful; David wants her „free pose‟ for his film Random Sample. Anna shared her grief with narrator, the narrator scolds David, in turn he molest narrator when her frustration state in peak, as to prove he is superior. This incident ramshackled the narrator, slowly she regained consciousness and wants to hide her newness. She turned completely ecofemnine as she regenerates herself from the cruelty, by crucifix herself in wilderness and regains a ray hope at the end of the novel. Narrator‟s father is a lover of nature, she loved his choice of owning a land in remote place of Quebec; surrounded by forest, lake and stream. Pastoral ecology calm down her anxiety, but her father‟s absence presses her to illusion. From Paul, (his father‟s friend) she learns about her father‟s doubtful disappearance. Her mother an aloof woman,
died out of brain tumor before the novel begins. Narrator repeatedly and often tries to remember her image to gain inner strength. From the „leather jacket‟ of blur jays she remember her mother, here the „leather‟ signified nature. Indirectly she regains potential from nature. It is purely ecofeministic. „Death‟ is the ecological happening, which made her fragile. The narrator‟s brother at his tender age drowned, her mother died at the age when the narrator really wants her mother‟s comfort. She envisioned her child as a renunciation of dead relations; she had a faith in her child. But its lapse let her down. Often she was disturbed by her ecology and turns mad. She encountered occasional emotional numbness, but encompass tem through psychological transformation. It was Indian gypsies, who make nature as their abode. They live, trained and befriend with wild animals, adopt the language of wild animals and imitate them. These real natural ecological survivors taste the freedom of living. The narrator of the novel move a step further she turns natural and ate what she gets from ecology, she valid her ways by saying she is to „uproot‟ the real human. Narrator hate human, hate their language, her feminism wears the mask of „Misanthropy‟ (general hatred, distrust of human nature), still Ecofeminism works, and she selectively hate men (ecological companion). 8. Trauma and rare race of woman Nature provides aid for all humane problems. Narrator‟s breakdowns make her to be a beast in wilderness. She hates the wild practices of human and wants to remodel and alter her own ecology. “The tress will never be allowed to grow…killed as soon as they‟re valuable, big tress are scarce as whale” (p.55).She wants to be an ideal woman of universe. As said by John Muir, “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness”. The narrator choose the appropriate (what she might think as right) way to be a „universal woman‟. Wilderness have no culture, no dress code and no language, nothing is there but provide pure environment. Narrator works in spurts, illustrating fairy tales; seemingly she is imaginative. She creates her stories, about her husband and child; she rejects Joe‟s proposal. Actually narrator‟s vision and illusion of her child turns her physcosis. She wants to get a relief in wilderness she „will‟ to „befriend‟ with nature. She resolves to thank God for granting „power‟ to her. She interwoven her cause of ill with her child, she wants to get rid of her mishaps by a new child; for that she seduces Joe. The replacement of new baby with dead one brings her „hope‟ to live. She found her ray of life in the wilderness; she live naked, had unwashed plants and sleeps in burrow. Nature of the trauma and cause of her illness is mishap of her baby and her imaginative mind. She traces the illness from her environment. Natural tendency to hold a „reason‟ for living is her „child‟. She adopts wilderness as her own and become ecofriendly. Ecofeminist‟s profound that women are closer to nature than men. The narrator goes deep, she sensed in and around of her surroundings, she wants to be „rare race of woman‟, who creates her destiny in natural accordance. Not only women but many oppressed races have also been closely associated with nature. Racial discrimination, cultural and lingual partialities are against her natural ecology, so she hates Americans and their attitude. Humanity is hinted with the woman, she has humanly soft corner and womanly love. Narrator creates her own mind language perhaps she fears about alien language (for her language of human is alien) she inhale and suffers with xenoglossophobia (fear about foreign language). She chanced to see her father‟s corpse (under water) surreal image arouse as illusion of her aborted baby. She got Thanatophobia (fear of death). 9. Symbolism, politics and spirituality Nature of a frustrated mind questions everything but believes nothing. The narrator doubts about women and their empowerment, she wants to acquire „power‟. Power seeking is found in her character, she wants to drag power from wild ecology. In chapter IV she admires the power of a „seed'. As like that, the ecofeministic narrator kneels to grasp power. In chapter IX it was clear, she thinks of bearing a child gives „power‟ to her. Atwood relate the narrator with her own ecology, she tries to underline various explorations on women, and one such thing is isolation of women from her native, nature. For multiple reasons, women desolate themselves for men‟s course. Atwood made a current to flow in her novel so called as Ecofeminism. Ecological feminism or Ecofeminism is an interdisciplinary movement that calls for a new of thinking about nature, politics and spirituality. Atwood‟s thoughts of politics are found in Surfacing. The narrator hate Americans, David is an extremist who also anti-Americanist. She calls the Americans as brain disease and hates them. To add value to her feel, the „Heron‟ kept as a symbolism. Narrator encountered American hunters, she found a Heron (bird) hanging in a tree. It was killed by a bullet and hanged in a nylon rope. The hanged Heron is representing the destruction of nature and of reproach to women. Lighter strain of spirituality is the image of „Jesus Christ‟. The Heron represent the image of Christ, who sacrifices himself for human welfare. For the nature, Heron is a „part‟; for the human it is a thing for „sport hunt‟; for narrator it is the symbol of men‟s cruelty. The narrator thinks herself as a „natural woman‟ (while she is in forest). She hates artificial politics and spirituality. She put forth nature in different manner. Atwood by these means carried out ecological feminism in her novel. Anna- David pair is her counterpart; David forced Anna, 24*7 to be with makeup. So her environment is with the mirror and makeup kit. For narrator Anna‟s makeup and her submission to David is a large scale subjugation of woman. Anna is David‟s toy; David is a womanizer, even knowing this she surrenders herself completely without protest. Her character depicts female deception. Narrator‟s concept of natural woman contradicts with Anna‟s „make-up‟ concept. Atwood presents two contradictory women; with their own ecological taste, affection and affirmation.
10. Hope making life taking 10.1 Conclusion Nature and its impact irk the writer, she talks in the medium of unnamed narrator and the narrator is a universal image of women - paranoid by patriarchal ecology. The narrator speaks in the first person narrative, express her anxiety, tense mood with „tense‟ see-saw. She seems to be an introvert; who creates her own world and lives with her ecological settings. She restricts the trespassers with stern nature. She considered male as situational benefactors including Joe, David, Paul, ex-lover and even her father. She felt her feminine suppress and her ecology distress, she seek solution there itself. So she is an „ecofeministic protagonist‟, she wears her natural wardrobe, for her dress is an artificial thing which removes her from nature. But she wears the ring of Joe and ring of her former lover. She adores them just like military decoration. Incomplete man and woman filled her ecology with torments. Almost all the characters in is Surfacing is incomplete and at „surface‟ level. Ecofeminism is a new mode for being with earth and ourselves, disregarding and devastation of natural process. We took the natural things, remodeled and renamed it as other things, turn them artificial. Degeneration of nature and women co-related and contemporary, it is reflected in Ecofeminism. Using toxic, chemical products in agriculture, artificial decoration and plastics pollutes nature and mankind. In developing and lesser developed nation‟s women are subjected to economical suppression, they experience immediate ecological subjugations. Women were traditionally closer to Earth, their physic are sites for environmental stress on all levels of grounds; bybirth defects, malnutrition, community stress and mishappening. In language of objection and domination Francis Bacon said “enter virgin territory” “rape the land”, modern science torments nature to extract her powers, „land‟ here is the subject of Ecofeminism. Ecofeministic principles reject „woman-nature‟ and „man-culture‟ idea, to honor the earth create new cultures; create new images for living with earth. „Hope making life taking‟ related with ecology found in Atwood‟s novel, Surfacing. The narrator embraces her new culture from her ecology (nature). Suffered, wounded feministic views replaces with ecofeministic views to come over violation, subjugation and suppression. “Gender, class, race and nature all must be theorized together if we are finally moved beyond these oppressions”. In this means we evidenced the sediments and relics of Ecofeminism in Atwood‟s Surfacing. References: Atwood, Margaret. Surfacing, London, Virago Press. (2009). Gaard, Greta Toward a Queer Ecofeminism Hypatia. Vol: 12, 1997. Lois Ann Lorentez, University of San Francisco and Heather Eaton, Saint Paul Univ. (2002). Shiva, Vandana (1988). Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development, London. The Introduction of “Feminism and Ecology”, Mary Mellor, New York Univ.Press,1997,P 1.