This passage, taken from Margaret Atwood’s novel Cat’s Eye, depicts a memoir of an older woman, as she recalls an event in her teenage years that she experienced with her friend, Cordelia. Through the narration of her memory, the reader is able to compare the protagonist and Cordelia while being revealed to the concept of time the narrator is partial to.
The narrator of the novel is an older woman, but the descriptions of her thirteen year old world are in first person and present tense, immediately drawing the reader into the immediacy of her memoir. She sets the scene on a muggy Saturday in winter, as her and her friend Cordelia ride on the streetcar, going downtown.
The use of unity of the girls’ actions: ‘we’re impervious, we scintillate, we are thirteen’ throughout the majority of the passage, is both vaguely ominous and comical at the same time. As readers we easily see through the façade of toughness and maturity that the two girls project outwards. The reader can picture Cordelia, a thirteen year old child outstaring other streetcar passengers, while assuming an air of nonchalance that the two girls seem to be involved in. ‘We think we are friends’, draws the reader’s attention; the phrase seemingly contradicts the above assertions of their unity. The use of the word ‘think’ has a retrospective, reflective effect, even before the knowledge that this event is a flashback, is revealed to the reader.
Atwood’s precise, vivid description of their ‘tough, crayon-red, shiny as nails’ mouths, Cordelia’s ‘opaque, glinting as metal’ eyes, suggest a hard mask that they both choose to wear, as well as their seemingly identical long wool coats with the matching accessories, the kerchiefs stuffed into pockets, the scorned head coverings, suggests a fierce desire to conform to what they believe the world is like.
Yet, their observances of the different types of old ladies reflect a different attitude that they project to each other and the world, almost...