“My Monster Self”: Violence and Survival in Margaret Atwood’s Moral Disorder





caregiving, outsider, insider, garrison mentality, gaze, survival


Margaret Atwood’s novels are usually celebrated for their blunt feminism. However, in Moral Disorder—a series of interconnected stories that forms a novel—feminist concerns are replaced with worries about territory and survival. The protagonist is an insider whose sole concern is to survive and to protect her territory. The confrontation between the narrator as the insider and the outsiders does not occur directly but could be inferred by her cruelty toward other characters and her violence against the animals under her care. The present study argues that this cruelty, which abounds in the novel, could be viewed as a substitute for violence against the outsiders. The narrator’s gaze at the Indian boy who entered the protagonist’s territory manifests a garrison mentality. The frequent references to axes in the novel are compared to the use of axes in “Wilderness Tips,” a short story by Atwood in which axes also have a metaphoric significance. The beheading and dismemberment of domestic animals could be the punishment awaiting the intruder. The novel establishes a division between the insider/outsider, here/there, self/other and civilized/barbaric to call for action and awareness about the importance of protecting one’s territory.


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Author Biographies

Nahid Fakhrshafaie, Shahid Bahonar University of Kerman

Nahid Fakhrshafaie received her PhD from Shahid Beheshti University in 2011. She is currently Associate Professor at Shahid Bahonar University of Kerman where she has been a faculty member since 1993. Her research interests include postmodern American literature, critical theory and comparative studies.

Alireza Bahremand, Velayat University

Alireza Bahremand won a master’s degree in translation studies from Isfahan University, Iran, in 2009. He is currently a faculty member in the department of English language and literature at Velayat University in Iranshahr, where he has been instructing and conducting research for 9 years. His research interests include literary criticism, literary translation and history of translation.


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How to Cite

Fakhrshafaie, N., & Bahremand, A. (2021). “My Monster Self”: Violence and Survival in Margaret Atwood’s Moral Disorder. Text Matters: A Journal of Literature, Theory and Culture, (11), 263–278. https://doi.org/10.18778/2083-2931.11.17