87 pages 2 hours read

Margaret Atwood

Hag-Seed: William Shakespeare's The Tempest Retold

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2016

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Your Mind Can be a Prison

In Hag-Seed and its original source, The Tempest by William Shakespeare, prisons are not just physical but mental. Atwood’s narration focuses on Felix’s perspective, giving the reader access to his actions and feelings. Though Felix is not always aware of his contradictions, the reader can infer them. Central to this characterization is the prison Felix creates for himself. He nurses his obsession with his dead daughter and his desire for revenge against Tony. In nurturing this obsession, Felix cuts himself off from the freedom to move on with his life and find happiness again, sentencing himself to 12 years of loneliness and anger. Felix has moments of clarity in which he recognizes the insanity of his continued relationship with an unreal Miranda; he even makes the comparison to prison explicit, telling himself to “Pull [him]self together. Break out of [his] cell” before taking the job at Fletcher Institute (47). Even in this new role, however, his obsessions continue to isolate him. He is also aware that he uses people like Estelle and the Fletcher prisoners, but he doesn’t care because he is consumed by his anger; he willfully erases his moral code in his pursuit of revenge.