Interpreting and Misinterpreting ‘Bluebeard’s Egg’: A Cautionary Tale



This chapter takes its origin from a specific incident. Some months ago I was asked in the course of my academic duties to read an unpublished essay that offered a strictly feminist reading of four short stories by Margaret Atwood. I was especially interested in the treatment of ‘Bluebeard’s Egg’ because the interpretation turned out to be radically different from what I had remembered of the story; on checking the text I discovered that the reading was based on highly selective evidence and could not be reconciled with a careful response to the subtleties of the narrative. Such an experience is not, in itself, uncommon, but the particular example seems to me important as a peculiarly contemporary phenomenon. This circumstance provides an unusually clear instance of what can happen if one begins from a theoretical position and imposes it upon a work of art to which it is not suited. The example therefore deserves more detailed attention. I shall begin with a brief summary of the essay’s argument and an explanation of why it seemed to me inadequate. I shall then go on to offer what I hope will be a more satisfactory response to the challenge of the text.


Fairy Tale Cautionary Tale Massage Parlour Contemporary Phenomenon Feminist Reading 
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  1. 2.
    Frank Davey, Margaret Atwood: A Feminist Poetics (Vancouver: Talon Books, 1984).Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1994

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