Reading 1001 discussion

The Blind Assassin
This topic is about The Blind Assassin
24 views
Archives > The Blind Assassin: October 15-21: Parts 7, 8, & 9

Comments Showing 1-14 of 14 (14 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Dianne (last edited Oct 15, 2017 03:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dianne | 167 comments Week three! Do you feel that you have hit a stride, reading this, and that it seems (mostly) much less strange than when we started? I think I am too Type A because while I am really enjoying the novel, the utter enigma of the 'blind assassin' portions is driving me nuts! Why? I mean why? But moving on, I pose questions for you to answer, any or all, or just pose your own questions or comments. Glad you are still with us!

1. Atwood opens this section by stating, as Iris, "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." Do you agree?

2. What do you think of the senior Iris? Suffering the indignities of an increasingly infirm body, striving to maintain her independence, pursuing grim joy in her crotchety responses to letters about The Blind Assassin, to me she seems mired in the past. Why do you think she is writing down the story? Why does she insist on reminding the readers that she is now old?

3. The marriage of Richard and Iris - was Iris ever more than a showpiece? Would it have been possible for Iris to attain any level of equality in her husband's mind, or to be essential in the way that his sister was? Why did she stay once the relationship became physically abusive? Do you think Iris fulfilled the roles that were expected of her, that she expected of herself?

4. Which female characters in this novel reject their assigned roles in society? How do they reject them?

5. Iris recalls spotting Alex at one point, and it has a profound impact on her, she stretched out her hand, "like a drowning person beseeching rescue." To me this implies that there was much more to their relationship than what had appeared to be the case - what do you think? Why would she have rehearsed this encounter over and over in her mind?

6. Laura remarks to Iris, "Unhappy," she said. "What on earth do you know about unhappy?" Is Iris happy? Do Laura and Iris understand each other?

7. Lizard Men of Xenor... I have no words. Thoughts?

8. Atwood writes, "When you're young, you think everything you do is disposable. You move from now to now, crumpling time up in your hands, tossing it away. You're your own speeding car. You think you can get rid of things, and people too - leave them behind. You don't yet know about the habit they have, of coming back." Do you agree? Can you dismiss the past?


Gail (gailifer) | 1273 comments 1) I do think that if you write something down or record something or in any way document something you are doing it with the conscious knowledge that it may be read or seen by someone else and therefore you present it in such a way that it has an audience, even if it is an audience of one. This definitely skews things if only a bit.
2) I think Iris is proud of herself finally. She did not seem to understand herself and was ashamed in some way when she was with Richard and was certainly ashamed in regards to what happened to Laura (who she was supposed to take care of)....further we see her unable to protect her daughter and her granddaughter. And finally there is some pride that she made it to old age and that she is somewhat capable. Although her body is not cooperating with her, her mind seems sharper than in the past. She may be writing down "another lie" but it seems as if it is some version of the truth and it may be the first she has been able to face the truth.
3) I think that Iris didn't even understand that Richard was being abusive she was so confused about who she was and who she was supposed to be. I think she didn't even understand why Richard was fascinated with Laura and didn't know enough to protect Laura from that.
4) Laura rejects the assigned role of someone that needs to be taken care of. She absolutely makes sure that no one can take care of her by ending her life, but even before that she made clear she did not want to fulfill that role. Callie did not show up to be the beloved mourner. Winnifred does not confirm to being a wife and mother although she does conform to "taking care of a man". Iris is in there also but she seems to do it in a passive aggressive way, betraying people without confrontation maybe....too early in the book to tell exactly.
5) This was a confusing passage because I had assumed that she loved him and this made it seem like her emotions were a surprise to herself.
6) Nope, no one seems happy in this book except maybe Walter and Myra but the unhappiness is not the kind that is explained by the phrase "I don't deserve this". Everyone that is unhappy seems to except that life is generally full of unhappiness. Also, there are times when people share moments of joy
7) Somehow I don't think this would have sold back then. Too weird. Too weird for now...
8) I do think that even if the people do not come back, thoughts of them do. Here is Iris re-living her life, reflecting on Laura and Alex and being haunted by them. Yep, I think I agree with Atwood on this one.


Diane Zwang | 1218 comments Mod
After the first week where the chapters were short and confusing, I have really enjoyed the story and feel it flows much easier for me. Can't wait to see how it ends.

1. I was obsessed with young Iris in section 7 so I must have missed this. I did get more of the writing reference in section 9. I will leave it to others to answer this one.

2. What do you think of the senior Iris? I love the senior Iris and there is nothing like hindsight and wisdom. Iris is mired in the past but I think that is the only way we as the reader knows what has happened. Why do you think she is writing down the story? I think this is the million dollar question and I am hoping next section will answer it. Why does she insist on reminding the readers that she is now old? So that we are reminded that time has past and she is still there?

3. The marriage of Richard and Iris seemed like a business deal and I don't think it moved on from that. I don't think it would have been possible for Iris to attain any level of equality in her husband's mind. I think she stayed in the marriage because she did not have any other options. I think Iris fulfilled the roles that were expected of her.

4. Which female characters in this novel reject their assigned roles in society? How do they reject them? I think Laura rejected her role in society and payed dearly for it. Winifred was also a strong and powerful woman for her time.

5. I think Iris and Alex had a connection from the first kiss in the attic. I believe Iris was a drowning person and needed rescuing from an awful marriage and life.

6. Laura and Iris are both unhappy. Each is stuck in a life they do not want. Once Iris married the two became increasingly distant and did not understand one another.

7. Lizard Men of Xenor... I have no words. Thoughts? I agree!

8. Can you dismiss the past? No and I think this is the crux of the whole story.


Book Wormy | 1932 comments Mod
Responding on app so cant copy questions or scroll up to remind myself so what I can remember is...

Iris appears to be writing for an audience I think she wants to tell her side of the story to counter Laura’s book.

The marriage is a business arrangement and doesn’t progress beyond that. Why she doesn’t leave she is pregnant/has a daughter in those days women couldn’t leave and expect to keep child. There is also the possibility she does try to leave as she has seen a solicitor about Richard. Alex was her only escape and he leaves.

Both Iris and Laura are unhappy but they can’t reach out to each other.

Lizard men is supposed to be a story about happiness but it appears that men are only happy when they have a purpose and an enemy. Parallel to Richard he is happy when getting one over Norval however he is not happy with his new bride leading him to abuse her the same way the men abuse the peach women who give them everything. Laura is more interesting to Richard as she resists him.


message 5: by Sue (last edited Oct 23, 2017 07:57AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue Dix | 61 comments 1. Atwood opens this section by stating, as Iris, "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." Do you agree?
That's a nice statement, but completely unachievable. You will always have it in the back of your mind that someone will read what you've written. And really, who doesn't ultimately want their writing to be read? We want a chance to tell our side of things, just like Iris does.

2. What do you think of the senior Iris? Suffering the indignities of an increasingly infirm body, striving to maintain her independence, pursuing grim joy in her crotchety responses to letters about The Blind Assassin, to me she seems mired in the past. Why do you think she is writing down the story? Why does she insist on reminding the readers that she is now old?
She wants her side of the story to be known. And saying she is now old gives her an excuse to say whatever she wants to and excuses her younger self for ill conceived decisions.

3. The marriage of Richard and Iris - was Iris ever more than a showpiece? Would it have been possible for Iris to attain any level of equality in her husband's mind, or to be essential in the way that his sister was? Why did she stay once the relationship became physically abusive? Do you think Iris fulfilled the roles that were expected of her, that she expected of herself?
Why does any woman stay in an abusive relationship? Because she thinks that she can't make it on her own. Iris accepts her role as a kind of martyrdom to atone for her father's failings, maybe?

4. Which female characters in this novel reject their assigned roles in society? How do they reject them?
Laura, because she won't be controlled/contained. Winifred, because she doesn't marry, but controls her brother; the perks of society without the burden of a husband/children. *After I posted this, I realized that Winifred is married. I tend to forget that as she is so involved in her brothers affairs.

5. Iris recalls spotting Alex at one point, and it has a profound impact on her, she stretched out her hand, "like a drowning person beseeching rescue." To me this implies that there was much more to their relationship than what had appeared to be the case - what do you think? Why would she have rehearsed this encounter over and over in her mind?
I think it's because she ultimately rejects the lifeline that is Alex.

6. Laura remarks to Iris, "Unhappy," she said. "What on earth do you know about unhappy?" Is Iris happy? Do Laura and Iris understand each other?
They understand each other up to a point, but after she marries, Iris doesn't try very hard to understand or care what's going on with Laura.

7. Lizard Men of Xenor... I have no words. Thoughts?
Bizarre.

8. Atwood writes, "When you're young, you think everything you do is disposable. You move from now to now, crumpling time up in your hands, tossing it away. You're your own speeding car. You think you can get rid of things, and people too - leave them behind. You don't yet know about the habit they have, of coming back." Do you agree? Can you dismiss the past?
I don't think you can dismiss the past. I think that we all spend time rehashing our past and wondering whether we've lead a "good" life. It's human nature.


message 6: by Pip (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pip | 1361 comments 1. Atwood opens this section by stating, as Iris, "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." Do you agree?

I think she is trying to remind herself not to make excuses for how she behaved. Actually I felt that Iris was quite hard on herself.

2. What do you think of the senior Iris? Suffering the indignities of an increasingly infirm body, striving to maintain her independence, pursuing grim joy in her crotchety responses to letters about The Blind Assassin, to me she seems mired in the past. Why do you think she is writing down the story? Why does she insist on reminding the readers that she is now old?

She is wanting to be independent but relies on Myra a lot. She is quietly proud of her responses to the letters. She seems mired in the past because we are reading what she is writing about the past. Her motivation seems to be to sort out what happened to herself, but I am anticipating some big reveals.

3. The marriage of Richard and Iris - was Iris ever more than a showpiece? Would it have been possible for Iris to attain any level of equality in her husband's mind, or to be essential in the way that his sister was? Why did she stay once the relationship became physically abusive? Do you think Iris fulfilled the roles that were expected of her, that she expected of herself?

Iris tried to be the ideal wife that Freddy coached her to be. She does not try very hard to either understand her husband or to be a satisfactory sexual partner. By the time she discovers the joys of sex Richard disgusts her and he knows it and physically abuses her. Iris seemed to believe that she had to stay but she did discuss leaving with Alex. She realised that she did not have the life skills to survive on her own or to be able to cope with the hardships of living with Alex.

4. Which female characters in this novel reject their assigned roles in society? How do they reject them? I am not sure that any of them do.

5. Iris recalls spotting Alex at one point, and it has a profound impact on her, she stretched out her hand, "like a drowning person beseeching rescue." To me this implies that there was much more to their relationship than what had appeared to be the case - what do you think? Why would she have rehearsed this encounter over and over in her mind? Because she did have the opportunity to leave with Alex and she didn't take the risk. She must have regretted that decision ever after.

6. Laura remarks to Iris, "Unhappy," she said. "What on earth do you know about unhappy?" Is Iris happy? Do Laura and Iris understand each other? Iris is only happy with Alex although she acknowledges that she enjoys the comforts of her lifestyle. Iris completely misses what is happening to Laura: the abuse by the tutor, maybe an affair with Alex, and abuse from Richard. Iris reflects that Laura had tried to talk to her but Iris had changed the subject and preferred not to talk about the problems Laura had.


7. Lizard Men of Xenor... I have no words. Thoughts? They found themselves living a fantasy life and discovered that it made them feel trapped. Someone looking at Iris might think that she, too, was living a fantasy life.

8. Atwood writes, "When you're young, you think everything you do is disposable. You move from now to now, crumpling time up in your hands, tossing it away. You're your own speeding car. You think you can get rid of things, and people too - leave them behind. You don't yet know about the habit they have, of coming back." Do you agree? Can you dismiss the past?

I agree that one is never rid of one's past and memories return, often unbidden. Iris is, of course, reliving her past as she writes her story down. I wonder if she is thinking of Reenie when she writes this.


Diane | 2022 comments 1. Atwood opens this section by stating, as Iris, "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." Do you agree?

I don't necessarily agree. It seems like a great idea in theory, but I think things are written in the anticipation that they will be read at some point, even if only by one person.

2. What do you think of the senior Iris? Suffering the indignities of an increasingly infirm body, striving to maintain her independence, pursuing grim joy in her crotchety responses to letters about The Blind Assassin, to me she seems mired in the past. Why do you think she is writing down the story? Why does she insist on reminding the readers that she is now old?

I think she dwells in the past because she is trying to make sense of the events that took place. She is writing down the story because she feels it is time to tell it so that others may also make sense of it. Perhaps she reminds us of her advanced age because she has outlived the other main characters of the story or because she is coming to terms with her aging.

3. The marriage of Richard and Iris - was Iris ever more than a showpiece? Would it have been possible for Iris to attain any level of equality in her husband's mind, or to be essential in the way that his sister was? Why did she stay once the relationship became physically abusive? Do you think Iris fulfilled the roles that were expected of her, that she expected of herself?

The marriage of Richard and Iris was a business arrangement and not one grounded in love. Despite the abuse, there are many reasons why she would feel compelled to stay. She had security and status. Divorce was taboo back then, and divorced women were often shunned by society and received unjust reputations.

4. Which female characters in this novel reject their assigned roles in society? How do they reject them?

Laura and Winifred both reject their assigned roles in society to a certain degree..

5. Iris recalls spotting Alex at one point, and it has a profound impact on her, she stretched out her hand, "like a drowning person beseeching rescue." To me this implies that there was much more to their relationship than what had appeared to be the case - what do you think? Why would she have rehearsed this encounter over and over in her mind?

I think she always wanted Alex to rescue her from her life, but either he wasn't persuasive enough to convince her, she never had the courage, or a combination of both. She probably always wondered what could have been and has regrets in hindsight.

6. Laura remarks to Iris, "Unhappy," she said. "What on earth do you know about unhappy?" Is Iris happy? Do Laura and Iris understand each other?

Neither woman is happy with her lot in life, but neither seem to understand each other's unhappiness.

7. Lizard Men of Xenor... I have no words. Thoughts?

No idea.

8. Atwood writes, "When you're young, you think everything you do is disposable. You move from now to now, crumpling time up in your hands, tossing it away. You're your own speeding car. You think you can get rid of things, and people too - leave them behind. You don't yet know about the habit they have, of coming back." Do you agree? Can you dismiss the past?

You can't dismiss the past. There are always reminders.


Kristel (kristelh) | 3967 comments Mod
1. Atwood opens this section by stating, as Iris, "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." Do you agree? I think it is pretty true but I also think even writing just to yourself it is still probably not truth. It is still your own ideas of the truth and that is never without distortions.

2. What do you think of the senior Iris? Suffering the indignities of an increasingly infirm body, striving to maintain her independence, pursuing grim joy in her crotchety responses to letters about The Blind Assassin, to me she seems mired in the past. Why do you think she is writing down the story? Why does she insist on reminding the readers that she is now old? I really like the old Iris. I thought the author did a great job shaping this old Iris. I think with age we are able to be more honest with ourselves than we can when we are younger.

3. The marriage of Richard and Iris - was Iris ever more than a showpiece? Would it have been possible for Iris to attain any level of equality in her husband's mind, or to be essential in the way that his sister was? Why did she stay once the relationship became physically abusive? Do you think Iris fulfilled the roles that were expected of her, that she expected of herself? Iris was eye candy, trophy bride or was she a diversion so Richard could have his "normal appearing life" and continue with things as usual. I felt like Richard and his sister were more husband and wife than Iris and Richard.

4. Which female characters in this novel reject their assigned roles in society? How do they reject them? Laura rejects the role of being privileged. She works in soup kitchens and reaches out to the disenfranchised. Iris rejects being the older sister and ignores her sister's needs and situations.

5. Iris recalls spotting Alex at one point, and it has a profound impact on her, she stretched out her hand, "like a drowning person beseeching rescue." To me this implies that there was much more to their relationship than what had appeared to be the case - what do you think? Why would she have rehearsed this encounter over and over in her mind? I think their was an attraction of each to each other from the day of the picnic.

6. Laura remarks to Iris, "Unhappy," she said. "What on earth do you know about unhappy?" Is Iris happy? Do Laura and Iris understand each other? No Iris is not happy. I don't think Laura and Iris do understand each other at all.

7. Lizard Men of Xenor... I have no words. Thoughts? me either except it is a commentary on what it takes to sell a book. And it was a way that Iris could hold onto Alex.

8. Atwood writes, "When you're young, you think everything you do is disposable. You move from now to now, crumpling time up in your hands, tossing it away. You're your own speeding car. You think you can get rid of things, and people too - leave them behind. You don't yet know about the habit they have, of coming back." Do you agree? Can you dismiss the past? I think young people do live as if life is too short and they don't realize how much time they have but I also think you cannot dismiss the past.


Melissa 1. Atwood opens this section by stating, as Iris, "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." Do you agree?

In many ways yes, because once you start thinking about it being read, you start trying to justify your decisions and choices, to make the reader understand your perspective. It’s impossible of course, just by writing it, you know it could be read, so I think you’d start to do it anyway.

2. I liked these reflections of old age by adult Iris, It humanizes her and makes her real in a way she wasn’t for most of her life.

3. The marriage of Richard and Iris - was Iris ever more than a showpiece? Would it have been possible for Iris to attain any level of equality in her husband's mind, or to be essential in the way that his sister was? Why did she stay once the relationship became physically abusive? Do you think Iris fulfilled the roles that were expected of her, that she expected of herself?

No, she wasn’t. And no, I don’t think she could have ever...he picked young girls percisely for their eye candy appeal and the pleasure he got from young girls, he would never have wanted or permitted her to gain power in the relationship. I think he made sure that didn’t happen because it wasn’t as appealing to him.

I think it’s really important to remember the history here.... I know our gut instinct is immediately that she should leave, but I try to remember that women couldn’t even have their own back account or sign for anything without their husband signing too until the 1970’s. She was literally his, from the time of the marriage, and legally the Law didn’t recognize spousal abuse or even spaousal rape as even ‘real’ at that time. They weren’t grounds for even divorce. Divorce itself was almost unheard of.

Yes, she did what her father needed her to do for the family, and what she was expected to do by society as Richard’s wife. I think her only problem was when her personal promise to protect Laura conflicted with her duties as Richard’s wife. Technically Laura wasn’t her responsibility any longer after she married, but I think she still felt responsible for her and that she failed both there and with her daughter and granddaughter, even if those weren’t her fault. Isn’t that often the way for women though, we feel responsible for everyone in the family, and like we personally failed if something escapes our notice.

4. Which female characters in this novel reject their assigned roles in society? How do they reject them?
Aimee...total rebellion, Her daughter...escaped. And Laura when she drove off the bridge, and Iris by leaving, and writing, and telling the story now.

7. Lizard Men of Xenor... I have no words. Thoughts?
Sex sells....it did then and it still sells paper now.


message 10: by Connie (last edited Oct 28, 2017 01:18PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Connie D | 91 comments 1. I think many great memoir writers know they will have an audience, and many focus on revealing rather than excusing themselves.

In her case, it probably is true. Iris doesn't waste much time trying to excuse or explain herself. I'm never sure if it' only because she's just too tired or languid to bother, though.

Also, just because she doesn't think she's writing for an audience doesn't mean she's wholly telling the truth.


Connie D | 91 comments 6. Laura's remark about "What do you know about being unhappy?" shows again how she lives in her own inner world, oblivious to others' feeling. On the other hand, Iris does appear to have developed a bland aura that makes Freddie and Richard think she's stupid and Laura think she's unfeeling. When Laura focuses her energies, she does seem to feel more deeply than Iris...so maybe she has something. Iris' situation seems more pitiable to me, but she takes so long to tell us how she feels about it and why...


message 12: by Paula (new) - added it

Paula S (paula_s) | 220 comments 1. Atwood opens this section by stating, as Iris, "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." Do you agree?
- I agree that to be completely honest you have to write without shame and the only way to do that is to never worry about it being read and judged.

2. What do you think of the senior Iris? Suffering the indignities of an increasingly infirm body, striving to maintain her independence, pursuing grim joy in her crotchety responses to letters about The Blind Assassin, to me she seems mired in the past. Why do you think she is writing down the story? Why does she insist on reminding the readers that she is now old?
- Iris is writing down her history and her family's history before the last remaining witness (Iris) dies. This is her chance to set the records straight. I like old Iris even though I guess she is a nightmare to care for, being all crusty and diffucult.

3. The marriage of Richard and Iris - was Iris ever more than a showpiece? Would it have been possible for Iris to attain any level of equality in her husband's mind, or to be essential in the way that his sister was? Why did she stay once the relationship became physically abusive? Do you think Iris fulfilled the roles that were expected of her, that she expected of herself?
- Iris never tried to be anything but a showpiece. She was too timid to try and Richard and Winnifred were too formidable a team to leave her any opportunities. A stronger person would have found a way, but Iris was to easily subdued. She didn't leave Richard because leaving would mean leaving her gilded cage. She didn't know the first thing about taking care of herself and she didn't really want to learn (unlike Laura who was always trying to gain independance).

4. Which female characters in this novel reject their assigned roles in society? How do they reject them?
- Laura. She reminds me of Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter novels - just keeps doing things her own way, and letting other peoples lives flow around her.

5. Iris recalls spotting Alex at one point, and it has a profound impact on her, she stretched out her hand, "like a drowning person beseeching rescue." To me this implies that there was much more to their relationship than what had appeared to be the case - what do you think? Why would she have rehearsed this encounter over and over in her mind?
- This confirms in my mind that they are the lovers in the story. Iris didn't have much joy in her marriage and Alex could give that to her. This was one of the turning points in Iris's life, which is why she keeps rehearsing it.

6. Laura remarks to Iris, "Unhappy," she said. "What on earth do you know about unhappy?" Is Iris happy? Do Laura and Iris understand each other?
- Iris in a way got what she wanted - financial security. Laura doesn't understand the price she is paying. Iris knows that Laura is unhappy but don't know why or how to help her.

7. Lizard Men of Xenor... I have no words. Thoughts?
- I liked Book's take on this.

8. Atwood writes, "When you're young, you think everything you do is disposable. You move from now to now, crumpling time up in your hands, tossing it away. You're your own speeding car. You think you can get rid of things, and people too - leave them behind. You don't yet know about the habit they have, of coming back." Do you agree? Can you dismiss the past?
- People and things don't always come back in physical form, but the thoughts and memories can come back to haunt us if we don't make peace with the past.


Sushicat | 292 comments 1 > I think that awareness of the reader means anticipation of judgement. That in turn influences the writing.
2 > I think senior Iris has overcome her inertia in her relationship with Richard and Winifred. Dredging it all up would pull her back into a place she hopes to have left behind. I like how she reminds herself where she is now.
3 > Iris at the time did not see any alternatives. All her upbringing has led her to this impasse.
4 > Laura has ignored her proper place her whole life. She as just ignored other's expectations. Callie was a free spirit. Winifred in my view has carved out her sphere of influence within the confines of society.
5 > This not quite encounter seems to be a moment where things were possible, but the opportunity passed and leaves Iris going back over it and trying to think of an alternative way it could have happened.
6 > Iris and Laura are both unhappy in their own ways. It seems they really don't understand one another.
7 > Lizard Men of Xenor: I think the last part of the story is about the things we think would make us happy, but if they actually became a reality, they would not have that effect.
8 > The things you would want to change or have done differently will stay with you forever.


message 14: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen | 1608 comments Mod
points tallied for prize draw


back to top