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Margaret Atwood (b. 1939) is a Canadian author, poet, and literary critic. With a career that extends over six decades, Atwood is regarded as one of the most influential writers of our time.
Atwood’s sayings and writings explore a range of topics, including feminism, politics, the environment, and oppression as well as dystopia and the dangers of unchecked technological advancement.
In this blog post, I’ve assembled some of the most popular Margaret Atwood quotes and explored the underlying ideas and implications of the more complex ones.
So, read on to see how Margaret Atwood quotes shed light on the complexities of life, love, feminism, women, reading and technology.
27 Margaret Atwood Quotes on Life
Better never means better for everyone.Margaret Atwood
It always means worse for some.
These words are a powerful reminder of the unequal nature of progress. Society advances, but there are always those who are left behind. The truth is, people who struggle and are marginalized often bear the costs of progress.
We’ve seen this happen throughout history. The Industrial Revolution brought incredible advances in technology and industry but at the cost of countless lives lost and environmental damage. The Civil Rights Movement led to equality and justice for Black Americans but at the cost of violent resistance from many groups.
The thing is, progress is not always straightforward. It is often accompanied by setbacks and sacrifices for various groups, and we must work to ensure that the most vulnerable do not bear the consequences of progress.
To sum it up, we cannot celebrate progress without also recognizing its harm. Working together for a more just and equitable world is the only way to ensure that progress truly benefits all, not just a few.
Another belief of mine;Margaret Atwood
that everyone else my age is an adult,
whereas I am merely in disguise.
A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere,Margaret Atwood
as long as it stays inside the maze.
The story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short.Margaret Atwood
Stupidity is the same as evil if you judge by the results.Margaret Atwood
How can we equate stupidity with evil? Don’t we all make mistakes and act foolishly at times? Well, yes and no. It’s true that not all stupidity is created equal but when we look at the bigger picture, it’s inexcusable not to acknowledge that stupidity can indeed be a catalyst for evil.
Think of some of history’s most tragic atrocities and tragedies, wars and genocides, environmental disasters, and economic collapses. Many of these events were caused by a combination of greed, ignorance, incompetence, and shortsightedness.
Of course, this raises the question of how we define “stupidity” and “evil” in the first place. These are not easy concepts to pin down but I believe the line between stupidity and evil is not fixed or objective, rather subjective and fluid that is influenced by our own values.
Whatever way we define these terms, however, one thing is clear: we cannot disregard the impact of stupidity on our lives and our world.
There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia.Margaret Atwood
Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.
Art is long and life is brief and mortality looms.Margaret Atwood
Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance,Margaret Atwood
you have to work at it.
You can only be jealous of someone who has something you think you ought to have yourself.Margaret Atwood
Jealousy often stems from our sense of entitlement, of feeling like we deserve something we haven’t been given.
But it’s worthwhile to recognize that jealousy is not necessarily a negative emotion by itself. It can be a signal that we aren’t getting what we need, that we feel overlooked or undervalued.
So, rather than letting jealousy consume us, we can use it as a driving force for change. If we’re jealous of someone who has something we want, we can take a step back and evaluate why we want it.
Once we’ve identified the source of our jealousy, we can address it by setting new goals for ourselves and working on developing skills that we feel are lacking. We can shift our focus from others to ourselves by focusing on our own growth and progress.
You don’t believe the sky is falling until a chunk of it falls on you.Margaret Atwood
Knowing too much about other people puts you in their power, they have a claim on you, you are forced to understand their reasons for doing things and then you are weakened.Margaret Atwood
But remember that forgiveness too is a power. To beg for it is a power, and to withhold or bestow it is a power, perhaps the greatest.Margaret Atwood
I made choices, and then,Margaret Atwood
having made them, I had fewer choices.
No matter how trivial or significant the choices that we make, they set us on a specific course and close off other options.
At the moment of decision-making, we feel empowered and free, as if we are shaping our future and taking control of our lives. But once the choice is made, the consequences follow.
This is the paradox of choice: the more choices we have, the more empowered we feel, but the more overwhelmed we become. And yet, the fewer choices we have, the more constrained we feel, but the more focused we become.
So, as it appears, the key is not to have more or fewer choices but to make the most of the choices we do have.
If we were all on trial for our thoughts,Margaret Atwood
we would all be hanged.
What am I living for and what am I dying for are the same question.Margaret Atwood
You can’t help what you feel,Margaret Atwood
but you can help how you behave.
Potential has a shelf life.Margaret Atwood
Potential is not infinite. It has a time limit. But sadly, many of us let our potential slip through our fingers.
We put off pursuing our passions and dreams, thinking we have plenty of time. As a result, we let our potential expire on the shelf, never realizing the magnitude of our full potential.
The concept of potential having a shelf life is a call to action. It urges us to make the most of the time we have and pursue our dreams with urgency. It is important to recognize that time is a finite resource, and we cannot waste it.
This doesn’t mean we should jump at every opportunity we’re given. We should still be thoughtful and deliberate about our actions. But it is equally important to embrace uncertainty and take risks, as the opportunity window won’t last forever.
Knowing was a temptation.Margaret Atwood
What you don’t know won’t tempt you.
I’m heartless, I thought.Margaret Atwood
Therefore I’m homeless.
An eye for an eye only leads to more blindness.Margaret Atwood
Optimism means better than reality;Margaret Atwood
pessimism means worse than reality.
I’m a realist.
Optimism, pessimism, and realism – three perspectives on life that influence our view of the world. Each has pros and cons. But which one is the finest?
Margaret Atwood saying says that she’s a realist. But what does it mean to be a realist? In simple terms, it means seeing the world as it is, not as we wish it were. Realists don’t sugarcoat things. They look at the facts and make rational judgments based on them.
So, is being a realist the best way to live? Realists are grounded in reality and less likely to be blindsided. They are also more likely to make practical and effective decisions based on the facts at hand. However, I feel realism can also lead to cynicism, the feeling that nothing can ever really change.
Ultimately, the choice between optimism, pessimism, and realism is subjective. Each has its own merits but as Margaret Atwood points out, realists see the world as it is, with all its imperfections and flaws, but also with its potential for improvement.
Whatever is silenced will clamor to be heard, though silently.Margaret Atwood
As all historians know, the past is a great darkness, and filled with echoes.Margaret Atwood
There is no fool like an educated fool.Margaret Atwood
A divorce is like an amputation:Margaret Atwood
you survive it, but there’s less of you.
The end of a marriage is like losing a limb – and more tragically, there is a sense of grief that comes with the end of a marriage – not just for the loss of the marriage, but also for the dreams and plans that you had for the future.
And just as an amputee must adjust to life without a limb, so too must those who have divorced adjust to their new circumstances. They have to learn how to navigate the world alone, rather than as part of a couple.
But there is a silver lining to this difficult process. Just as an amputee can learn to thrive despite their missing limb, divorced individuals can do the same.
They can rediscover themselves, their passions, and their strengths. The only key is to be patient with yourself to heal in this new chapter in your life.
Water does not resist. Water flows.Margaret Atwood
When you plunge your hand into it,
all you feel is a caress.
Reality simply consists of different points of view.Margaret Atwood
17 Margaret Atwood Quotes on Love
The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them: there ought to be as many for love.Margaret Atwood
Eskimos live in an environment where snow is ever-present, which shapes their lifestyle, culture, and survival. Apparently, they have fifty-two names for snow because they value it so much.
For example, “qanik” refers to falling snow, while “pukak” describes crusty and crunchy snow. There is even a word for snow that is suitable for making igloos – “iglu”. Eskimos’ ability to differentiate between different snow types allows them to make smart decisions and adapt to ever-changing surroundings.
Similarly, love is inherently present in human life, and it shapes our emotions and relationships. It has countless expressions that come in so many forms that each type deserves its own name according to Margaret Atwood.
And just as the Eskimos have a deep understanding of snow, I believe we also need to develop a deep understanding of love. For love is not merely an emotion, but a powerful force capable of transforming our lives.
In the end, we’ll all become stories.Margaret Atwood
I would like to be the air that inhabits you for a moment only. I would like to be that unnoticed and that necessary.Margaret Atwood
I feel like the word shatter.Margaret Atwood
Touch comes before sight, before speech. It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth.Margaret Atwood
There is something magical about the sensation of touch that simply cannot be expressed through any other form of communication. It is a language of its own, and it expresses itself without ever uttering a word.
Touch is the first language we learn as humans but it is also the last language we’ll ever know.
In moments of profound connection – a hug from a loved one, a gentle caress – words simply fail us. And so we turn to touch, allowing it to communicate on our behalf.
And perhaps most importantly, the expression of touch is pure and untainted. When we touch a beloved, we cannot help but respond with sincerity. And in an era where everything can be faked, that kind of honesty is priceless.
Nobody dies from the lack of s*x.Margaret Atwood
It’s lack of love we die from.
Can I be blamed for wanting a real body, to put my arms around? Without it I too am disembodied.Margaret Atwood
I exist in two places,Margaret Atwood
here and where you are.
I’m not sure which is worse:Margaret Atwood
intense feeling, or the absence of it.
There is something troubling about the extremes of human emotion. Whether it is the overwhelming intensity of feeling or the absence of it altogether, both can leave us feeling alone and stranded.
On one hand, intense emotions can be the fuel that powers our dreams and gives us the strength to face even the toughest challenges. But it is also a double-edged sword, capable of consuming and leaving us vulnerable. In contrast, the absence of feelings can be just as damaging, making us feel empty and numb. It can also be the result of trauma, loss, and whatnot.
But what makes these extremes so challenging? The thing is… when we are overwhelmed with feelings, we can feel like we are on a rollercoaster ride that we can’t get off of. And when we are numb, it can feel like we are drowning in a sea of nothingness.
So, what are our options when we find ourselves in such extreme situations? To start off, I believe we should embrace the fluctuating nature of our emotions, recognizing that they are a natural part of the human experience. And in times of numbness, we can seek connection and meaning, acknowledging that we are not alone and that a brighter tomorrow is always possible.
He might die for her, but living for her would be quite different.Margaret Atwood
The desire to be loved is the last illusion.Margaret Atwood
Give it up and you will be free.
Amazing how the heart clutches at anything familiar, whimpering Mine! Mine!Margaret Atwood
And yet it disturbs me to learn I have hurt someone unintentionally. I want all my hurts to be intentional.Margaret Atwood
Atwood’s philosophy emphasizes personal responsibility and accountability. By saying that she wants all her hurts to be intentional, I feel that Atwood acknowledges that unintentional harm is still harmful, and she prefers to have control over her actions, even when hurting others.
We’re all humans, and we’re bound to make mistakes that hurt others, even when we don’t intend to.
Atwood’s words reveal an honest desire to be accountable for her actions, even painful ones, which means acknowledging the impact of those actions on others.
Moreover, Atwood’s words illustrate the power of intentionality. When we act with intention, we are more likely to be aware of the consequences of our actions, helping us become more mindful and compassionate individuals.
We are survivors, of each other.Margaret Atwood
We have been shark to one another,
but also lifeboat.
I want everything back, the way it was.Margaret Atwood
But there is no point to it, this wanting.
To want is to have a weakness.Margaret Atwood
Love blurs your vision; but after it recedes, you can see more clearly than ever. It’s like the tide going out, revealing whatever’s been thrown away and sunk: broken bottles, old gloves, rusting pop cans, nibbled fishbodies, bones. This is the kind of thing you see if you sit in the darkness with open eyes, not knowing the future.Margaret Atwood
Love has the power to cloud our perception of reality. When people are in love, they tend to overlook their partner’s flaws and focus on their positive aspects.
However, as love fades away, people develop a more objective viewpoint and become aware of previously hidden truths.
Atwood also points out that this heightened sense of clarity comes from sitting in darkness with open eyes and not knowing what lies ahead. In other words, we can only see things clearly when we confront the truth and do not cling to illusions.
The truth is… Love can be a powerfully transformative experience, but it’s important to remember that it’s not always flawless. Sometimes it’s necessary to sit in the darkness and confront our fears and doubts openly so that we can emerge stronger and more resilient.
14 Margaret Atwood Quotes on Writing & Reading
A word after a word after a word is power.Margaret Atwood
For Atwood, writing is not just a form of self-expression, but also a tool for social and political critique. By putting words together in a certain way, writers can create powerful messages that inspire change, challenge the status quo, and inspire action.
Words are seriously underrated generally. Just think about it: every influential movement in history started with a word. The speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela inspired millions to fight for justice and equality. The works of writers like Shakespeare, Dickens, and Tolstoy continue to move and inspire us to this day.
In the digital age, thanks to social media and the internet, words are more powerful than ever as people’s opinions and social norms can be shaped by a single tweet or post that gets viral.
This is why we have to choose our words carefully, considering their impact on the world around us.
Reading and writing, like everything else, improve with practice. And, of course, if there are no young readers and writers, there will shortly be no older ones.Margaret Atwood
Once a story you’ve regarded as true has turned false, you begin suspecting all stories.Margaret Atwood
Writing is alone, but I don’t think it’s lonely. Ask any writer if they feel lonely when they’re writing their book, and I think they’ll say no.Margaret Atwood
War is what happens when language fails.Margaret Atwood
When people fail to communicate effectively, misunderstandings happen. Misunderstandings lead to anger, frustration, and conflict and when these conflicts don’t get resolved, they turn violent. So, war is the ultimate manifestation of language failure.
The problem is not limited to individuals. It extends to nations and societies as well. When different groups cannot communicate with each other, they become isolated and cynical. This can lead to conflict between nations and even war.
The importance of language cannot be overstated but language is not just about words. It is also action-oriented. The way we interact with the world around us, and the way we respond to conflict can all communicate more than words ever could.
That’s why it is our responsibility to use language to promote peace, understanding, and cooperation since we need it now more than ever.
I read for pleasure and that is the moment I learn the most.Margaret Atwood
The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.Margaret Atwood
Should is a futile word. It’s about what didn’t happen. It belongs in a parallel universe. It belongs in another dimension of space.Margaret Atwood
As they say, history does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.Margaret Atwood
History is not a monotonous cycle of events, but a series of echoes that reverberate through time. While history may not repeat itself exactly, it bears an uncanny resemblance to the past.
Every moment in history is different, shaped by its context and circumstances. Yet, the rise and fall of empires and the triumphs and tragedies of humanity – all of these have been repeated, in one form or another, throughout history.
Take, for example, the current global pandemic. While the COVID-19 virus is distinct to our time, diseases and plagues aren’t. History is full of examples of pandemics that have struck the world, from the bubonic plague to the Spanish flu.
In short, we can say that the echoes of the past can still help us make better-informed decisions. By recognizing the lessons of history, we can create a better world for ourselves and future generations.
If I waited for perfection,Margaret Atwood
I would never write a word.
All writers feel struck by the limitations of language. All serious writers.Margaret Atwood
Writing… is an act of faith: I believe it’s also an act of hope, the hope that things can get better than they are.Margaret Atwood
The artist doesn’t necessarily communicate. The artist evokes… [It] actually doesn’t matter what I feel. What matters is how the art makes you feel.Margaret Atwood
Art transcends language, culture, and time. As the quote suggests, the true power of art lies not in its ability to communicate a specific message, but in its capacity to stir emotions.
Artists are often seen as communicators, storytellers, or messengers. However, the most profound and memorable works of art are not necessarily those that communicate a clear message. Instead, they evoke an emotional response in the viewer.
It’s possible that the artist wants to convey a specific message, but ultimately, what matters is how the art makes the audience feel. For example, a painting could be intended to convey a political message, but it may also evoke a sense of wonder, longing, or melancholy.
So, the true value of art lies not in its ability to communicate a specific message, but in its capacity to evoke emotions and inspire us to see the world in a completely different light.
Writing is a way of recording the human voice.Margaret Atwood
8 Margaret Atwood Quotes on Feminism & Women’s Rights
We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly.Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood believes that society has long been conditioned to view men as default leaders. This idea is so ingrained that it can be difficult for people to conceive of a woman in a leadership position without questioning her qualifications or abilities.
And those women who do manage to break through these stereotypes and reach positions of power are often viewed with suspicion. They are seen as outliers, exceptions to the rule, rather than natural leaders in their own right.
We’ve been told, both implicitly and explicitly, that men are strong, assertive, and competent, while women are soft, emotional, and nurturing. This attitude can be particularly damaging to women’s careers and self-esteem, as it implies that they are somehow not suited to leadership roles, even when they have the necessary skills and experience.
Today, there is a constant need to challenge these structures to create a more equitable and just society. Because only then will we be able to create a more inclusive and equitable society, where leadership is based on merit rather than gender.
The goals of the feminist movement have not been achieved, and those who claim we’re living in a post-feminist era are either sadly mistaken or tired of thinking about the whole subject.Margaret Atwood
Men often ask me, ‘Why are your female characters so paranoid?’ It’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of their situation.Margaret Atwood
Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.Margaret Atwood
Does feminist mean large unpleasant person who’ll shout at you or someone who believes women are human beings. To me it’s the latter, so I sign up.Margaret Atwood
The first definition of feminism here is a stereotype perpetuated by those opposing feminist ideals. This stereotype suggests feminists use their beliefs as weapons to attack others, and they are angry, aggressive, and irrational.
The second definition, which Atwood aligns herself with, is “someone who believes women are human beings.” This definition emphasizes the basic humanity of women and recognizes that they are entitled to the same rights, opportunities, and respect as men.
Feminism, according to Atwood, is not about promoting one gender’s superiority over another, but rather about advocating equality and fairness. It’s about recognizing that women have historically been oppressed and discriminated against, and working to dismantle those oppression systems.
In the end, feminism is not just a movement for women. It’s a movement for everyone who believes in justice and equality. It’s a movement that benefits men as much as women, as it aims to create a world where gender doesn’t matter.
Little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life-sized.Margaret Atwood
A man is just a woman’s strategy for making other women.Margaret Atwood
What is believed in society is not always the equivalent of what is true; but as regards to a woman’s reputation, it amounts to the same thing.Margaret Atwood
4 Margaret Atwood Quotes on Technology & Science
People use technology only to mean digital technology. Technology is actually everything we make.Margaret Atwood
When we think of technology, we often imagine smartphones, computers, and the internet. We look forward to the next big thing in digital innovation. However, it overlooks the many other forms of technology that have transformed our lives.
From the wheel to the printing press, from steam engines to airplanes, from telegraphs to radios, from cars to refrigerators and much more, technology has been an integral part of human progress. It has given us access to knowledge and information like never before, enabling us to overcome our physical limitations.
We also create technologies that reflect our hopes, fears, and aspirations, and they can be both liberating and oppressive. For instance, during World War II, the atomic bomb demonstrated the destructive power of technology, while the rise of social media has exposed the dangers of online harassment and misinformation.
All in all, technology has a diverse and complex nature and we must broaden our understanding of it and analyze technology from a critical and balanced perspective.
Science is a tool, and we invent tools to do things we want. It’s a question of how those tools are used by people.Margaret Atwood
Social media is called social media for a reason. It lends itself to sharing rather than horn-tooting.Margaret Atwood
Science and fiction both begin with similar questions: What if? Why? How does it all work?Margaret Atwood
But they focus on different areas of life on earth.
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