1. What does Margaret Atwood''s novel Cat''s Eye say
about the nature of childhood and the development of adolescent
friendship? Is there a gender-influenced difference in cruelty
between boys as opposed to that expressed between girls? At what
point does adolescent meanness become pathological?
2. In the opening line of the novel, the narrator, artist Elaine
Risley, who returns to the city of her birth for a retrospective of
her painting, observes: "Time is not a line but a dimension, like
the dimensions of space . . . if you knew enough and could move
faster than light you could travel backward in time and exist in
two places at once." How do you interpret this statement? Why does
Elaine return to Toronto and what does she hope to accomplish
there? Was the trip necessary? If so, why? What role does this
return play in the structure of the novel?
3. Elaine is haunted by Cordelia, her "best friend" and
childhood tormentor. All predators must have a motive. How did
Cordelia benefit from tormenting Elaine? What weakness in Elaine
made her particularly vulnerable to Cordelia? Why does Cordelia
continue to play such importance in Elaine''s adult life?
4. Discuss the impact of the type of parenting received by
Elaine, Cordelia, and their third friend, Grace. At one point
Elaine''s mother tells her that she does not have to be with the
girls that are tormenting her. Is her mother in any way responsible
for what happened to Elaine? What role do you feel parents should
play in helping resolve childhood conflicts or in protecting their
5. Early in the novel, Elaine is warned by her first new friend,
Carol, not to go down into the ravine: "There might be men there."
Discuss the importance of this warning, taking into account the
later incident between the girls at the ravine. What does this say
about our ability to apprehend danger? In which of her other novels
does Atwood explore the nature of evil and its relationship to
6. Why do you think Elaine became an artist? What is the
significance of that choice? Do artists use life experiences in
ways people do not?
7. In her review of Cat''s Eye, Judith Thurman suggests
that a connection exists between sex and childhood games. Discuss
this, as well as the significance of the book''s title.