Deductive Analysis Paper: Negativity Bias and Gender Stereotypes in “Lusus Naturae” by Margaret Atwood

Negativity Bias and Gender Stereotypes in “Lusus Naturae” by Margaret Atwood

Gender inequality, sexism, and failure to appreciate individual differences are undeniable, intrinsic aspects of human culture. While people in the present-day society hold different stances on each of these topics, there is a wide consensus that humans overly focus on negative events or outcomes. Negativity bias is used to characterize and possibly alienate some members of society (Tugend par. 4). Anyone who fails to cooperate with the already-defined and widely recognized social characteristics is subjected to wide-ranging consequences, with women suffering the most. Margaret Atwood utilizes Lusus Naturae to depict the tendency of society to isolate their members whose physical features look different from the rest. The main character is a girl who is rejected, called horrible, and nicknamed a monster because she suffers from porphyria (Atwood 265). Although Atwood’s protagonist possessed appealing physical and personal traits during her early childhood, her new look due to an incurable condition has caused society to isolate and brand the narrator “Freak of Nature.”

Atwood succeeds in her objective of representing the themes of sexism or gender-based stereotypes and isolation by ensuring the protagonist does not have a name. In particular, the author’s decision not to assign the girl a name is symbolic in the sense that it suggests how society traditionally offers little to no opportunities to women (Jones et al. 11). While the girl cannot change her new look due to the disease, she is expected to bear the blame because, upon first glance, people see her as a freak that triggers fear. Members of her society do not appreciate how beautiful and strong she was prior to the development of the medical condition.

The reader and potentially other characters would expect that the young lady’s parents and siblings would accept her regardless of the medical condition. However, they fail to support her by joining the rest of society members in wishing her death. The girl’s mother believes and calls her disparaging names: a thing, a vampire, and a monster. For instance, she chooses to serve her blood because she believes her daughter is a blood-thirsty vampire. In her own words, “I was a thing, then. I considered this. In what way is a thing not a person?” (Atwood 264). From this statement, the narrator has chosen to acknowledge and appreciate what others say as her fate. In this context, while the word “thing” sounds and feels too harsh to conceive, the author has used it figuratively, creating a picture of typical societies that are characterized by negativity bias.

Atwood’s “Freak of Nature” is a clear depiction of how people take an inhuman approach to responding to qualities that they consider different and unpleasant. Approximately everyone makes snap judgments because they are unwilling to focus on the positive. In the text, qualities that are misunderstood are shared as awful about the narrator. This groupthink compels other characters, including her own parents to believe that she is a mere thing that does not deserve to be happy or receive adequate care as any other human being. Concisely, through societal pressure, the people have stripped her of her human status, which means she is worthless and her existence is disgraceful.

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. “Lusus Naturae.” The Norton Introduction to Literature. New York: W.W. Norton, 2016, pp. 262-266.

Jones, Jennifer Lynn, and Brenda R. Weber. “Reality Moms, Real Monsters: Transmediated Continuity, Reality Celebrity, and the Female Grotesque.” Camera Obscura: A Journal Of Feminism, Culture, And Media Studies, vol. 30.88, no. 1, 2015, pp. 11-40.

Tugend, Alina. “Praise is fleeting, but Brickbats we recall.” The New York Times, March 23, 2012. www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/your-money/why-people-remember-negative-events-more-than-positive-ones.html (Accessed 26 November, 2020)

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