Please provide a psychological reading of Margaret Atwood's "Journals of Susanna Moodie."
Jessica Pope | Certified Educator
Margaret Atwood's poetry collection "The Journals of Susanna Moodie," can be read as an expression of one woman's transformative experience as she journey's through Jungian archetypes and "meets" her shadows (those dark, shameful parts of herself such as fears, "petty" needs, and other human frailties). This psychological reading of the Journals give insight into the way in which images of darkness, wilderness and chaos shape the narrative of Moodie's transformation. In Book 1, Moodie leaves familiar Quebec for the unknown terrain of Canada. She remarks that the moon itself looked "alien,"and that the rocks were so dark it seemed as if they were ignoring the sun. The darkness around her can be understood as her own ignorance of self: psychologically, she does not yet know what she's capable of enduring, or just how deep her own strength and courage go. She claims this ignorance in the poem "Further Arrivals," in which she notes of the darkness: "It was our own ignorance we entered." Books II and III chronicle her struggle as she learns about herself and her relationship to nature. By the end of Book III Moodie has made peace with the inherently chaotic and uncontrollable nature of the universe and of her own psyche. She notes that "god is not the voice of the whirlwind" but rather that god is "the whirlwind itself." This gives credence to the idea that there is no universal power that orders the universe. Nothing internal or external can ever be fully controlled or even fully known. Rather, one must constantlly struggle with the unkown and unkownable dimensions of nature and self.