In the novel Cat’s Eye, by Margaret Atwood, the main character is a middle-aged painter named Elaine Risley.As Elaine returns to Toronto for a retrospective of her paintings, she is plagued by the memeories of her childhood.She led a life unlike that of a typical young female: playing with dolls and tea sets, and wearing dresses.Instead, Elaine was accustomed to a life of insect hunting and constantly changing residences.After moving into a new home and environment, Elaine was faced with the task of becoming accustomed to a new lifestyle and new friends. Elaine’s childhood memories reveal the grim actions of her friends Cordelia, Grace and Carol.Despite this, she places them on a pedestal.This creates in Elaine a desire to become one of them, to be accepted by them.Her insecurities about her femininity and her desire to be accepted cause Elaine to beocme an accomplice to her oppressors.
Elaine’s insecurity is depicted in herfirst experience at the Queen Mary Public School where the boys are separated from the girls, and the girls are separated from the boys: “So I am left to the girls, real girls at last, in the flesh.But I am not used to girls, or familiar with their customs.I feel awkward around them, I don’t know what to say.I know the unspoken rules of the boys, but with girls I sense that I am always on the verge of some unforseen, calamitous blunder.” (50)
With Elaine’sfirst encounter with “real girls”, she instantly feels like a stranger looking in from the outside.She does not know how to behave when she is with the girls.When she is with them, she feels unsure about herself, and threfore she is left feeling out of place.
Elaine’s insecurity and feelings of not belonging become sensed by her friends, especially by Cordelia.Once Cordelia realizes that she has complete control over Elaine, she keeps Elaine subservient by treating her harshly, stating that it is for her own good: