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National Identity Crisis in Margaret Atwood's "Through the One-Way Mirror

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David Roy Ms. Cheri Killam English 101-19 2 December, 2004 National Identity Crisis in Margaret Atwood's "Through the One-Way Mirror" National identity is one of the most important factors in maintaining a country. It defines one's nation, culture and everything associated with that country. When it comes to Canada, however, it seems that our national identity has been lost. In Margaret Atwood's essay "Through the One-Way Mirror," she effectively questions Canada's national identity through symbolism and ambiguity. At first glance, this essay seems to be about American dominance in the Canadian-American relationship with its numerous powerful metaphors and extensive use of symbolism. However, after a more thorough examination of the essay, it can be determined that it is not about the United States' role in this relationship, but rather it is concentrated on the Canadian national identity (or lack thereof). ...read more.


The Canadians have their own beer bottles and barbecue smoke, but they tend to overlook it" (81). Atwood continues to talk about the difference between Canadians and Americans and discusses the topic of education, stating that, "The Canadians ... are taught about the rest of the world first and Canada second" (81). Once again she shows how the Canadians are thinking about everybody else except for themselves. Canadians definitely lack interest in their own country and Atwood implies that in order for a country to have a national identity, the people must concentrate on the internal issues before the external issues. Atwood continues by addressing Canada's ambiguity, as a weakness and reason why Canadians lack a national identity. ...read more.


A great discrepancy can be noted between the three quotes. Atwood used this technique to describe how Canada is so obsessed with American culture, yet she later portrays Canadians as disliking the Americans. Furthermore, if Canada expects to have a national identity, it must be clear in its decisions with other countries. Atwood illustrates that due to Canada's ambiguity, it is very difficult for the country to have a defined national identity. This is the message conveyed by Atwood in order to question Canada's national identity. Through analysis of "Through the One-Way Mirror," it can be concluded that Atwood thoroughly question Canada's identity and explores possible reasons for this problem. Through means of literary devices, Atwood portrays Canada as being a self-contradicting country who is not per-occupied with its internal issues and happenings. This explains Canada's lack of national identity. ...read more.

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