Study Guide

Cat's Eye

by Margaret Atwood

Cat's Eye Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Cat’s Eye focuses on a fifty-year-old protagonist, Elaine, who is revisiting the city of her childhood. Elaine is a controversial artist who is returning for an exhibition of her works. During her journey, she undergoes a transformation, for she learns about herself, her art, and her life at various stages in the novel.

Elaine’s childhood begins with her traveling with her family across northern Canada. Her father is an entomologist who follows infestations; therefore, the family moves from motel to motel until she is eight years old. Elaine’s early childhood contrasts the new existence she faces when her family relocates to Toronto. She is forced to adapt to suburbia, which includes learning a new vocabulary and local etiquette. The clothing, speech, and items Elaine encounters reflect the rigidity associated with the 1940’s and 1950’s that Atwood recalled from her upbringing.

Elaine must learn what it means to be feminine and to socialize with members of her own sex. She realizes that she is different from the others at school and that her parents are not wealthy. During this time, Elaine becomes fascinated by another girl her age, named Cordelia. Cordelia lives in a large home with a cleaning woman and with other extravagances that Elaine admires. Cordelia claims to befriend Elaine; however, Cordelia and her other friends constantly harass Elaine for her many shortcomings and submit her to torturous acts. Elaine does her...

(The entire section is 522 words.)

Cat's Eye Summary

Part 1-6 Summary

Part One: Iron Lung
Cat's Eye begins with an observation about the nature of time, attributed by Elaine Risley, the...

(The entire section is 520 words.)

Part 7-13 Summary

Part Seven: Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Risley leaves the department store, goes back to the studio, and looks up her old friends...

(The entire section is 855 words.)

Part 14-15 Summary

Part Fourteen: Unified Field Theory
Risley arrives at the gallery an hour before the exhibition opens, and walks around, looking...

(The entire section is 146 words.)