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Reflecting on Toronto’s Storied Streets

Some writers are careful to map their stories onto specific geographical locations. Two Toronto writers do this with particular care: Margaret Atwood and Dionne Brand.

Margaret Atwood has depicted Toronto with careful detail in her fictions, especially in The Robber Bride (1993) and Life Before Man (1979). Toronto is not signposted quite so explicitly in her earliest novel, The Edible Woman (1969), but is setting for one memorably uncomfortable restaurant dinner shared by Marian and her fiancĂ©, Peter, in this novel about the politics of consumer society more generally. It begins well enough, with Marian and Peter enjoying their steaks, rare. “Marian was so hungry she would have liked to devour the steak at one gulp” (274). But as the meal goes on, Marian starts to remember diagrams of the various cuts of meat then she looks again at her plate to see not steak but rather “a hunk of muscle. Blood red” and finally has to put down her knife and fork (Atwood 280). Peter notices something is amiss, but does not understand what. The reader and Marian both recognize this as the beginning of trouble for their relationship and for Marian, who is already subconsciously aligning herself with the cow being so expertly dissected by her fiancĂ©.
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