The Process of the Narrator’s Transformation in the Novel (Margaret Atwood - Surfacing)
At the very beginning of the book the narrator is accompanied with her three friends on the way to her birthplace. These friends are symbolizing the contrast to her following transformation and she perceives their company in the car as well as in the cabin as inappropriate.
Searching for her father she is returning to the roots, nature and also understanding, recovering and finding her true self. The main point is that searching for herself has existential sense for her. What is more, the fact that the author or the narrator’s friends did not mention the main character’s name, evokes some kind of generalization.
The moments under the water and seeing ‘a death thing with trailing limbs and open eyes’ makes her believe that what she sees is an embryo of her unborn child. The immersion into the water might be metaphorical for exoneration or baptism, when the narrator is diving into her real ‘I’; it also washes off the industrially affected humanity.
When hiding in the woods dressed only in blanket, looking and behaving like a wild animal and sleeping in leaves, she communicates with ‘them’ – probably her parents. She is sorting her impressions and realizing that she do not want to be ordinary, she is sort of coming back to the nature, to the primitive uniqueness of a human who is not affected by the industrial word.
At the very end of the story she decides to survive because of her baby, which she deliberately conceived with Joe. ‘If I die it dies, if I starve it starves with me .... It must be born.’ She is returning enriched, because she can see the life with distance and she refuses ‘to be a victim’ of life.