Stefan Kanfer, in Time, commented on Atwood's understanding that the humiliations of childhood have deeper effects than anything that happens in adulthood. Do you agree that the events of our...

Stefan Kanfer, in Time, commented on Atwood's understanding that the humiliations of childhood have deeper effects than anything that happens in adulthood. Do you agree that the events of our childhood can scar us for life?

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sagetrieb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I didn't read the article in Time, so I am not sure where the critic grounds his observations. Handmaid's Tale, which jamie refers to, confronts a patriarchal order fused with power of religion that reduces women to "vessels"--or at least those with the "power" to reproduce, and in this way re-imagines class distinctions. But as to  whether childhood issues "scar" (or imprint us in a positive way?) us for life--I don't think there is much doubt concerning this.  As for mother - daughter relationships, not only does Tannen's book address this, but so does the more dated Chodorow that shows the female self inextricably constructed through its relationship to the mother or primary female caretaker.  And then there is the poetry of Rich that investigates the same.  The danger in thinking about childhood humiliations scarring us for life is that it tends to put in the background the way good experiences that might heal us and give us strength.  There are many autobiographies and memoirs that investigate this very issue by exploring memories of the past--both good memories and bad. 

Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do agree, but I wonder if this is more true for women than for men.  I recently read Deborah Tannen's terrific non-fiction book, "You're Wearing That?": Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation" in which adult females discuss how mothers continue to impact their lives as adults.

In Atwood's fiction, mothers and daughters are certainly intertwined.  Do you think she is advocating a return to matriarchal rule (or the "Great Mother" philosophy?)  If we as adult women are so scarred by our mothers, is this a good idea?  Or is it a warped patriarchy that so scars women (a la "The Handmaid's Tale"?) 

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Completely! I think that this excellent novel in a sense is proof of how we take events in our childhood on with us into the rest of our lives. I am no psychologist, but I am sure I remember reading once that our psyches or identities are most malleable in the childhood years, which means that any tragic or disturbing events literally do leave an impression on us for the rest of our lives.

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Absolutely. I can tell you from personal experience that childhood traumas stay with a person forever. There is no such thing as "closure" for events that damage the psyche; it is just that some people have better success at locking memories away than others do.

kik427 | Student

Though we only see children get into trouble with others and walk away, there frigile minds remain scared. With time we all see them as healed individuals, able to still operate, but what we don't see is the psychological pain that was pushed back because of there inability to repair themselves at this level. The supression of all this is what then molds there minds. This alters their lives forever and so even as thy interact with difrenet people, they don't see thm the same can never compare a fully grown adult mind to that of a child, when a human is young there minds are like clay, wit time it hardens to a sulpture created by experiences, be they good or bad. I has been proven over time that those most eminant to walk into psycological traumas would be young girl, more then boys, and also those that will inflict pain on them are those closest to them, mothers, best friends of the same sex, and many other sources. These people are the one's who hinder the mind of fragile individuals to develop and progess.