Margaret Atwood


Plot Summary

Anchor Books, Doubleday. NY: 1972.
Main Characters

David --

Anna --


Paul & Madame--

the narrator's parents

the 'Americans'



* 以下情節摘要會特別標示三種重點:1)女性的處境;2) 自然被破壞;3)女主角面對過去的心情糾葛.

Part One
Goes back to the 'border' between civilization and nature, present and past. --present tense (See a note on The Use of Language and Tenses in Surfacing.)

The beginning of a quest (also homecoming), the chapter starts with:

--mixed metaphors: "I can't believe I'm on this road again, twisting along past the lake where the white birches are dying, the disease is spreading up from the south, and I notice they now have sea-planes for hire"(p. 3). Here the disease refers to both the natural disease of the birches and human exploitation of nature.

-- sense of alienation: 1) arriving at her hometown, which she calls: "my home ground, foreign territory" (7); 2) resisting telling the story: the narrator refers to her parents, herself, and her brother "as if they were somebody else's family"; also she has to "keep [her]self from telling that story" (10).


gets to the village; meets Paul --> remembers the parents and their relationship with Paul and Madame.
goes to a store, down the lake to the island --> does not want to see the father (their conflicts over her 'marriage' mentioned); remembers Brother's experience of near drowning.
goes to the house where her father lived --> 'remembers' her baby and marriage (p. 30; 36).
more description of Joe (her relationship with him) and Anna (her use of makeup); --> 'remembers' her 'husband,' marriage and divorce, "like an amputation, you survive but there's less of you" (39)
The baby: "I have to behave as though it doesn't exist, . . . it was taken away from me. . . . A section of my own life, sliced off from me. . . , my own flesh cancelled" (45)
more description of Joe and David --> remembers the Sunday School and her childhood; --> thinks about her limitations at work; finds Father's drawing.
goes fishing; meets some 'Americans'

They decide to stay longer; she stays away from Evan, goes swimming--> remembers her quitting Sunday school, her experience of diving.

-- the narrator's duplicity: She says "I always felt safe here," and then her "own voice" speaking aloud, "That's a lie"; and, thinking "hard about it, considering it," she agrees that "it is a lie." "I have to be more careful about my memories, I have to be sure they're my own" (70).

". . . finally being in the air is more painful than being in the water and I bend and push myself reluctantly into the lake."

Part Two

Begins to search and dive into the lake; past tense. (See a note on The Use of Language and Tenses in Surfacing.)


--> remembers her experience in the surgery room; refers to her 'husband' as 'he.'


Joe's proposal; remembers her 'wedding'; looks at her scrapbook.

B. Malmstrom comes to express interest in buying the house; David sees this as part of a war for water.
reads the father's drawings and gradually sees them as parts of a puzzle; sees Joe unhappy; looks at the family album.--> remembers a time when she was 'cut in two' (109).

expresses her fear of death; sees the dead heron.

--David: Anna reveals how he is a womanizer(98-99).


the 'toilet' in nature; Anna talks about her 'makeup' (123); meets the Americans;

--David: wants Anna to 'look like a young chick' (123).


the 'Americans' turn out to be from Toronto p. 129

"The trouble some people have being German," she says in reference to the Nazi atrocities, "I have being human" (p. 131)

David and Anna: Anna is forced to take off her bikini for "Ramdom Samples"

Dives into the lake and sees 'it' -- her father's corpse? Or the aborted foetus?

Then she starts to face the real past: " It wasn't a wedding, there were no pigeons, the post office and the lawn were in another part of the city where I went for stamps" (145);

-- "death . . . inside me," that she has layered "over, a cyst, a tumour, black pearl" (145);

Remembers 'him' and how he asks her to think for him and his family; Anna makes love to Joe, while David approaches her.

Some people comes to report the finding of her father; she behaves calmly, which for the other three is abnormal.

'. . . nothing has died, everything is alive, everything is waiting to become alive.'

Part Three
Surfacing: reintegrating herself with her parents, with nature, and then returns to human society.--present tense
wants a baby with Joe, while Joe just thought that she was jealous.
destroys the film and then takes the canoe away from the other three.
goes back to the cabin to find her locked outside. "I am here!" She calls out to her parents.
fear; lives in nature
sees 'her.'

sees 'Father.'

understands her parents; observes nature from multiple angle.
re-enters her time.