Sunday, March 23, 2014


'Life Before Man' is a novel by Margaret Atwood, which I tried reading in my early 20's and found that I was too young to understand the complexities of relationships Atwood eloquently points out here. But, now that I am at the end of my 20's, and after 4+ years of marriage experience under my belt, I felt that I could understand the struggles the three protoganists and narrators of this novel, Elizabeth, Nate, and Lesje experience.

One of the key themes that struck out for me was that we are a product of our past upbringing. Our perception of marriage for better or worse is a reflection of our childhood. The relationship our parents had. The type of home we grew up in. The three characters it seemed couldn't escape the shadow of their childhood.

Elizabeth to me seemed like an evolved version of a woman, who is aware of her emotional shortcomings as a mother, and tries to emulate the idea of what a mother is supposed to be. This reminds me of Albert Camus's 'The Stranger', where the protagonist faces dire consequences, because his reaction to a major loss in his life does not meet the society's approved response.

This book was written in 1979, and it is interesting to note that human feelings regarding marriage and love, in spite of the changing cultural and moral expectations, have not changed much. The actions of Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina may not be as scorned as they were in the 19th century, but these tragic figures would sadly remain deprived of love and eternal bliss even in the 21st century.

In this past decade I have realized that happiness is not a natural state of being, it is actually something that requires work, patience, and most of all dedication.