In this same scene, just as Marian pushes away from the steak, she also senses her own helplessness and supposed inferiority to Peter. At the end of the book, Marian offers herself as food to Peter in the form of a cake.
Clearly, an iced cake in the shape of a woman is the central metaphor for Marian's perception of woman's condition and fate as decreed by the feminine mystique so that her cake-baking is both a gesture of complicity in the domestic myth and also a critique of it.
At the office Christmas party, surrounded by the fat and ageing bodies of her colleagues, Marian's perspective shifts from a kind of anthropological detachment to a sudden shocked recognition that she too shares this mysterious female condition: What peculiar creatures they were; and the continual flux between the outside and the inside, taking things in, giving them out, chewing, words, potato-chips, burps, grease, hair, babies, milk, excrement, cookies, vomit, coffee, tomato-juice, blood, tea, sweat, liquor, tears, and garbage … At some time she would be—or no, already she was like that too; she was one of them, her body the same, identical, merged with that other flesh that choked the air in the flowered room with its sweet organic scent; she felt suffocated by this thick sargasso-sea of femininity.
There is hope, however. Atwood begins the story with a first-person narrator, Marian McAlpin, telling the story from her own perspective, almost sounding as if she were talking to herself.
He hopes that Marian is real and proposes that she go to bed with him so he can find out for sure. A young woman like Marian, sensitised as she is to the social script of gender relations and feminine expectations, seems to have little consciousness of her own body either in terms of its maternal urges or its erotic pleasures.
It's obscene, that horrible oozy … 'Don't be idiotic,' Ainsley said '… You're displaying the classic symptoms of uterus envy. They end up going to a sleazy hotel, where they have unsatisfying sex.
Pratt Medal. In his own warped way he was a kind of inverted moralist … he was constantly accused by women of being a misogynist and by men of being a misanthropist, and perhaps he was both.
Marian first notices a slight distortion in their preconceived roles when Peter talks about things that Marian finds offensive. Marian tests Peter, in the end, with the cake-woman.
Margaret Atwood is a writer who often plays with fairy tale images in her work.