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?

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sensei918 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.