1. Do you see a relationship between the kind of work Marian
does in consumer research with the particular way her life begins
2. Peter is afraid of being captured by a woman, of losing his
freedom; Marian begins to feel hunted, caught in his gaze;
eventually she even confuses his camera with a gun. In what ways
can all the characters seem at once to be hunter then predator,
master then slave, subject then object?
3. Two parties take place in the book, the office party and the
engagement party. Discuss what these parties do for the structure
and development of the novel.
4. Sexual identity lies at the heart of much of the story.
Discuss the role Marian''s roommate Ainsley, her friend Claire, and
finally the "office Virgins" play in helping define Marian''s
dilemma. Discuss the men: Why is Marian drawn to Duncan? Contrast
him with Peter.
5. The novel is narrated in first person in parts one and three,
third person in part two. What is the effect on the reader of the
change in voice?
6. Margaret Atwood has described The Edible Woman, her
first novel, as an "anti-comedy," with themes many now see as
proto-feminist. Give examples of Atwood''s clever use of food
images throughout the book.
7. First Marian drops meat from her diet, then, eggs,
vegetables, even pumpkin seeds. Can you point to the incidents that
precede each elimination from her diet? How does her lack of
appetite compare or contrast with Duncan''s unnatural thinness, his
stated desire to become "an amoeba?"
8. What is the meaning of the cake Marian serves Peter at the
novel''s end? What is the significance of her eating the cake?
9. Margaret Atwood is a writer who often plays with fair-tale
images in her work. "The Robber Bridegroom" (which she much later
turns on its head with The Robber Bride) was likely an
inspiration for The Edible Woman: the old crone warns the
bride-to-be " . . . the only marriage you''ll celebrate will be
with death. . . . When they have you in their power they''ll chop
you up in pieces . . . then they''ll cook you and eat you, because
they are cannibals." What images of cannibalism does Atwood use? Do
you see traces of other fairy tales in this novel?
10. At the time The Edible Woman was written in 1965,
food, eating, and weight issues had not yet attracted wide
attention as feminist concerns. Three decades later, in The
Beauty Myth, author Naomi Wolf observes that the obsession
with thinness began to become a serious national problem for women
America around 1920, coinciding with women''s right to vote;
studies indicate that today nearly half of American young women
have had at one time or other had an eating disorder. What are the
symbolic meanings of food, and why does it become the focus for so
Discussion questions provided courtesy of Anchor Books, a division
of Random House, Inc., New York. All rights reserved.