In "The Edible Woman," what are Peter's and Marian's different understandings of the heart-shaped cake? What does it tell us about the respective roles they play in their relationship?
In Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman, the main character, Marian, becomes engaged to Peter, and, as a result, slowly becomes unable to eat any more. Food becomes disgusting to her, and she isn't really sure why. She is trying to have a normal relationship and be a normal person, and normal people get married and are pretty happy with it. She buys Peter a heart-shaped cake on the day after Valentine's Day because she feels slightly guilty due to the fact that he had sent her a dozen roses. The cake was just a token, and not a real gift.
When Marian tried to eat a piece of it, she found that she could not. She thought that it felt all spongy "like the bursting of thousands of tiny lungs" (215). To Peter it was just a cake; to Marian, it was a symbol of everything that seemed to be going wrong since she had accepted Peter's offer of marriage.
Peter wants a normal relationship with a normal woman; Marian is subconsciously rebelling against this, and is becoming something other than normal, not realizing that she really is trying to sabotage the relationship, which she thinks will devour her.