Explain how Kat from Atwood's "Hairball" by Atwood and Zoe from "You're Ugly, Too" are similar. 

1 Answer | Add Yours

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Exasperated with talking to Zoe, Earl makes a comment to her that ends up connecting both she and Kat from "Hairball."  Earl remarks that he, and men, in general, are just as alienated from modern women as they are from themselves:  "‘You know, I just shouldn’t try to go out with career women. You’re all stricken. A guy can really tell what life has done to you. I do better with women who have part-time jobs.’’  In the end, this becomes one of the convergent points between both Kat and Zoe in that both have found success, but still are lacking. Zoe has broken "the glass ceiling" with her work in the history department while Kat has "ramboed through the eighties" and is a creative force in the magazine.  Earl's comment in accurate because both women have become "career women."

However, it is here in which both authors show that the construction of the "career woman" is only one part of modern feminine identity.  The personal lives of both women is in flux.  There is little emotional solidity, as both women struggle to find some semblance of happiness in the personal realm. Just as the men in their lives feel alienated in their attempts at being unable to establish emotional connection with them, Zoe and Kat are shown to struggle in establishing emotional connection with their own personal senses of self.

When Zoe says she is "going out of her mind," it is reflective of her condition in a world that is no longer appealing to her emotionally.  The detachment she feels with her teaching, her setting, and her book are reflective of the challenges she finds with men, something that is revealed to Earl. In a similar way, it is evident that Kat is undergoing estrangement from her own identity. One such example of this is with the naming of her cyst, one of the few things to which she can connect.  Kat's life which seemed to be reflective of the female "Rambo" has lost centrality and focus: "But she doesn’t see other men, she can’t, somehow. She’s tried once or twice, but it didn’t work. Sometimes she goes out to dinner or a flick with one of the gay designers. She likes the gossip. Maybe she misses London. She feels caged, in this country, in this city, in this room."  Kat and Zoe are experiencing emotional challenge in their recognition that their identity as modern women is more than procuring a job and being able to work in "a man's world."

Another similarity between both characters would be their lack of emotional connection to the world.  Both Zoe and Kat confront a reality in which their accomplishments matter little and they are not truly understood by the world around them.  It is quite possible that they fail to understand themselves. When Kat jokes in pushing Earl off the balcony, the way in which he looks at her when she first indicates that she was kidding reflects misunderstanding, with a gaze "appalled and frightened." This matched with Dania asking Kat why she is so filled with hate.  The ending of both narratives reflect a world that cannot connect with them.  Kat speaks to "Hairball," who cannot speak back, while Zoe "wondered how she looked," almost indicative of her own myopia about the world and her place in it.  Both characters struggle with their own identities in the world and find themselves unable to emotionally connect with anyone in it.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,914 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question