As for Me and My House and Surfacing are both novels with female narrators and protagonists. As such, they might be expected to put women at the center of the narrative. However, in both novels the women telling the stories are marginalized and prevented from being the heroes of their own lives, as they support and submit to male authority.
In As for Me and My House, the narrator, Mrs. Bentley, once had dreams of being a concert pianist. However, she says that as soon as she met her husband, she realized that she would have to devote herself entirely to him and "the piano took second place." Mrs. Bentley reflects:
Submitting to him that way, yielding my identity—it seemed the way life was intended.
Mrs. Bentley is doubly married and doubly subordinated, first to her husband, the pastor, and then to the patriarchal institution of the church. She is frustrated by this position, but also by her inability to fill it to her husband's satisfaction, particularly by providing him with a child, a traditional wifely duty.
In Surfacing, the patriarchal figure is the narrator's absent father. In Atwood's novel, as in Ross's, the narrator's subordination is emphasized by her lack of a name, but whereas Ross's protagonist has no name but her husband's, Atwood's has no name at all. This namelessness is appropriate to her regression to a wild, animal state at the end of the novel. The narrator is trying to get inside the mind of her father, and in attempting to prove that he was not mad, she appears to go mad herself.
The title of Surfacing refers to the narrator's symbolic rebirth when she comes out of the lake with the certainty that her father is dead. From this point, she is free of masculine authority, but for her this seems to mean a complete rejection of everything men have built, living like a wild animal. After experiencing visions of her mother and father, she is able once again to wear clothes and live indoors, but it remains unclear whether she will be able to enjoy the benefits of civilization without supporting patriarchy. However, her attempts to escape from the influence of men show that she is more aware of her position, and more resistant to male authority, than Mrs. Bentley is.