Part 1, Chapters 1-3 Summary

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 639

Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin (2000) earned several awards, including the prestigious Man Booker Prize. It is Atwood’s tenth novel and quickly became a bestseller, although it received mixed reviews. One possible reason for this is reflected in John Marshall’s article in Seattle’s Post-Intelligencer, which describes The Blind Assassin as a novel that raises “demands on readers”; he contends “that serious attention be paid, or else.” The reason behind these comments might be due to the complexity of the structure of The Blind Assassin, which is built on the narration of Iris Chase Griffen, the novel of her sister, and a story being told within that novel.

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In the opening lines of The Blind Assassin, the narrator, Iris, announces that her sister, Laura died at twenty-five-years of age. It has been assumed that Laura died as a result of a car accident, but Iris suggests it might have been suicide. Iris is now in her sixties. To shed more light on Laura’s death, Iris recalls the history of her Canadian family. In the process of exposing details of both women’s lives, Iris includes excerpts from a novel written by her sister. After Laura’s death, Iris discovered her sister’s manuscript and sent it to a publisher. The novel concerns a somewhat explicit extramarital affair between an unnamed man and a married woman. The man, in turn, tells another story to his lover.

The man’s tale is set in an undetermined time that appears to be in the future though he claims the characters in his story and their plight have ancient historical references. The title of this man’s story is also The Blind Assassin, which refers to some of his characters. In his story, young child slaves are forced to make handcrafted carpets. These children are forced to work so diligently that they lose their eyesight at an early age. Blinded, they are of no more use except as prostitutes and pickpockets. Some of these unfortunate children come under the influence of murderers who teach them how to kill; they become blind assassins.

Iris’s narration is interspersed throughout the novel. Through Iris, readers learn that Laura’s ashes were strewn upon the family cemetery plot, which Iris often visits. Bouquets of flowers are occasionally laid on the plot; when they are wilted, Iris picks them up and throws them away. She says that fans of her sister’s novel...

(The entire section contains 639 words.)

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Part 2, Chapters 1-4 Summary