Lusus Naturae by Margaret Atwood Analysis


Though Lusus Naturae, by Margaret Atwood, is a fictional short story that deals with a mythical creature as its main character, it also can relate to issues that exist still in the real world today. The main character is cast out from society and hid from the outside world by her own family, for the sole reason that she is different from the people around her. While the protagonist of Lusus Naturae appears on the surface to be cold, disturbing, and subhuman on many levels, her true personality is shown through her interactions with the other characters. The protagonist’s decisions with relation to her sister perhaps reveal the most about her true character. Moreover, Atwood attempts to humanize our protagonist by showing the reader that no matter what she looks like on the outside, she still is a human who wants what is best for her family, and for her sister in particular. Without the protagonist’s sister being directly involved in the plot of the story, then obviously the story would not have turned out the way it did, but at the same time, the reader may not be able to see the humanity in the story’s main character. The sister in Lusus Naturae is a flat and static character, and she is also important to the story by indirectly showing our protagonist’s humanity through her own decisions.

In Lusus Naturae, the main character’s sister is a flat and static character. A flat character, as opposed to a round character, is simple and acts and speaks in predictable ways. A static character, as opposed to a dynamic character, describes any character that doesn’t change throughout the story. In Lusus Naturae, the protagonist’s sister acts and behaves predictably throughout, and she also does not change during the duration of the story. Her sister is selfish and self-centered, and she only has her best interests in mind. She is cold and cruel towards her sister at the beginning of the story, and she continues to be up through the very end, exemplifying her flatness as a character. The protagonist’s sister says early on ‘Curse or disease, it doesn’t matter,’ said my older sister. ‘Either way, no one will marry me if they find out” (14). When the village mob marches on the house towards the end of the story, our main character describes how “They’re marching toward this house, in the dusk, with long stakes, with torches. My sister is among them, and her husband” (37). While the sister’s behavior might have escalated to a new, horribly violent level, her mentality towards her sister has not changed one bit from the outset. This lack of meaningful change clearly shows how the sister is a static character.

Although she is awful in general to the protagonist, nevertheless, the sister in Lusus Naturae is extremely important to the main character, as well as to the story as a whole. In order for the reader to understand that, at least on the inside, the protagonist is still human, the main character must show human behavioral traits.  In contrast to her sister, the protagonist is quite selfless and caring towards the other members of her family. Nothing is more human than loving and caring for those that you are related to, and the protagonist shows that clearly through her interactions with her sister. For example, after her sister dismisses her as subhuman, the protagonist thinks “True enough. She was a pretty girl, and we weren’t poor, we were almost gentry. Without me, her coast would be clear” (14). She obviously is more than willing to do what is necessary in order to help her sister. Again, a few lines later, the protagonist tells the reader “It was decided that I should die. That way I would not stand in the way of my sister, I would not loom over her like a fate” (17). All of the main character’s decisions that she made throughout the story were motivated by her sister, and more specifically her sister’s only goal of getting married and moving on. Without her selfishness, then the protagonist would have little reason to hide and eventually remove herself from society. The protagonist clearly and definitively explains her choice in a short but powerful statement in which she says “My coffin was a rung on her ladder” (20). She clearly knows that faking her death will solely benefit her sister, but once again she is ready and willing to do so if that results in a better life for her sister.

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