I'm trying to figure out the signifcance of the title of Atwood's book Surfacing. What does the title mean and how does it mean this in the context of the book?
The meaning of the title needs to be understood within the context of the psychological realisation of the narrator of her own identity. As she goes through the book, she comes to learn more and more about her own condition, and not only her own condition, but the conditions of the past and the conditions of women in general. In addition, she considers the condition of nature and the way that all of these things have suffered as a result of men. Her resolution, coming at the climax of the book, relates to the title because the narrator feels she is given clarity and is able to "surface" in order to see everything the way it is. When she does this, she makes a resolution that shows how she has surfaced against the forces that threaten to push her down:
This above all, to refuse to be a victim. Unless I can do that I can do nothing.
The narrator rejects the role of victim and seeks to move beyond this position, articulating a third kind of identity that is not constrained by the victor-victim dichotomy that has damaged not only herself, but also other women and nature too. Surfacing therefore refers to the realisation of the narrator concerning her own state and her relationship not only with men but also with nature itself.