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Research Paper

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This paper discusses ideal romantic love as it appears in Western literature and how women are portrayed in works containing idealistic romantic plots. It also explores how Canadian author Margaret Atwood rejects the traditional love plot in her novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, as well as in her book of poetry Power Politics and the poem “A Woman’s Issue.” The first section of this paper gives a brief history of the ideal romantic love plot in Western literature, beginning with courtly love in Medieval literature, and its influences on later works such as Madame Bovary and The Awakening. The section also discusses the transition from the traditional love plot to that of the failed marriage plot in addition to such plots’ portrayal of women as broken and unwhole beings. The first section concludes with a brief overview of how Margaret Atwood rejects the ideology of romantic love in her works. The second section explores The Handmaid’s Tale as a rejection of the romantic love ideal and how the novel sheds light on various issues women face in addition to the imbalance of power between men and women. The third section expands upon the idea of an imbalance of power between men and women in romantic relationships by examining Atwood’s book of poetry Power Politics, concluding with a possible theory as to why women appear to willingly give up power in such relationships.


Margaret Atwood; Western literature; love; feminism


English Language and Literature

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Reflective Essay