Margaret Eleanor “Peggy” Atwood was born in Ottawa, Ontario, on November 18, 1939, the second of three children of Margaret Dorothy (Killam) and Carl Edmund Atwood. Her father was an entomologist who conducted research in the bush country of Quebec and Ontario. Therefore, Atwood spent many of her summers at the family cottage exploring the Canadian wilderness until her family would return to Toronto for the school year. This connection to and exploration of the natural world would have a dramatic effect on her later writing.
Atwood’s passion for the creative arts began at a young age. Between the ages of eight and sixteen, she was more interested in painting and designing clothing than in writing. She jokingly calls this time her “dark period” because beyond these years, she was devoted to writing; however, she would go on to illustrate some of her books of poetry and to win respect as a painter.
Atwood wrote for the school paper during her teens at Leaside High School and contributed to the school magazine Clan Call. From 1957 to 1961, she attended the University of Toronto, where she pursued her B.A. in English. During her undergraduate career, she formed a bond with teacher and critic Northrop Frye. Her mentor introduced her to the poetry of William Blake, which would subsequently impact her own poetry. Even the titles of some of her books, such as Double Persephone (1961) and Two-Headed Poems (1978), reveal a double vision of mythic contradictions that stems from the influence of Blake’s writings. Even more important was her friendship with professor and poet Jay Macpherson, whose irony and formal choices are also reflected in Atwood’s work. After graduating with honors from her undergraduate studies and publishing numerous poems in the college’s magazines, Atwood completed her master’s degree in English at Radcliffe College, Harvard University, in 1963.
That year, Atwood took a position at a marketing research firm, which...
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