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Literature: The Blind Assassin
Margaret Atwood's 2000 novel is told from the point of view of Iris Chase Griffen, an octogenarian who chooses to record her life story after discovering that she's suffering from a potentially fatal heart disease. In particular, Iris details her relationship with her younger sister, Laura — who committed suicide in 1945, aged twenty-five, by driving a car off a bridge — and the publicity surrounding Laura's posthumously published novel, The Blind Assassin.


The Blind Assassin contains examples of:

  • Arranged Marriage: Iris's father arranges her marriage to Richard in the hopes that it will save the family company and ensure a better future for at least one of his daughters. His plan fails in every possible sense: the company still goes under (with Richard making a point of giving it a final push, before taking what's left and absorbing it into his own business empire), and both his daughters suffer years of psychological, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Richard and his sister.
  • Creepy Housekeeper: Even though she's a relative and not a servant, Richard's sister Winifred manages to be very reminiscent of Mrs Danvers.
  • Doom Magnet: While Iris's life hasn't exactly been happy, the tendency of people around her to suffer at least as badly as she does and, ultimately, die young as well, does not go unnoticed, by herself or other people.
    • Specifically, a lot of people in her life seem to have committed suicide, though for various different reasons: Laura, her father, her husband Richard and her daughter Aimee are all at least believed to have taken their own lives.
  • Foregone Conclusion: One of the first scenes is a newspaper article about Laura's death. The rest of the novel is taken up by how the characters got to that point.
  • Open Secret: Despite its characters not being named, The Blind Assassin causes a scandal as it is clearly autobiographical.
  • Nameless Narrative: The Blind Assassin does not name the woman and the pulp fiction writer, preferring to use pronouns.
  • Nested Story: The book's title refers to Laura's novel, published posthumously by Iris. The Blind Assassin tells the story of an unnamed woman's affair with a pulp sci-fi writer who would invent stories for her during their liaisons, making this a case of stories within a story within a story.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Iris takes refuge in this as she ages, having been a trophy wife constrained to politeness in her prime.

Black CrossHistorical Fiction LiteratureBloody Jack
BlazeLiterature of the 2000sBlind Lake

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