National Identity Crisis In Margaret Atwood’s Through The One Way Mirror
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).
After re-examining the essay, the meaning of the symbols and metaphors
change. The most important metaphor is that which calls the Canadian
people “Porky Pigs” (Atwood 81) who are being mesmerized by the
Americans through this “one-way mirror”(81). A powerful image is taken
from this, the Canadians are looking at the Americans, and the
Americans are looking at themselves. This image implicitly shows how
Canadians care more about the issues in the United States than those
in their own country. A perfect example of this is described by Atwood
when she is comparing the American’s garbage with the Canadian’s
garbage, “There’s a perpetual party, or something, going on [at the
American’s house]—loud music, raucous laughter, smoke billowing from
the barbecue. 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...
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