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Gannat Elabed

LBST 2301-337
Professor Tina Katsanos
December 6, 2018

The Year of the Flood​ Critique

Written by Margaret Atwood, ​The Year of the Flood depicts previous and ongoing

changes involved in species and the environment. The title plays a crucial role in the overall

theme of the novel because it describes issues that are taking place to the characters and in the

setting. In my perspective, floods can symbolize a negative connotation of heavy winds and rain,

or destruction and grief. A flood in this novel illustrates the destruction of Earth and the

multitude of experiences, such as grief and distress, that each character faces over time.

Margaret Atwood accurately reflects and portrays the current state of our environmental and

social problems in her well-written novel.

In the beginning of her epic novel ​The Year of the Flood​, Margaret Atwood enchants her

readers with a poem titled “The Garden” from ​The God’s Gardeners Oral Hymnbook. Although

the poem is concise, it conveys an accurate image of not only the environment but also the

current world we live in today. The second stanza of the poem writes “‘Twas once the finest

Garden, That ever has been seen.” The phrase ‘twas once’ validates how green and vivacious the

Garden once was, but “then came greedy Spoilers, And killed them all away.” The ‘Spoilers’ in

stanza four represents the humans and our interactions with the environment. The poem contrasts

various signs of life to how they’ve diminished over time from humanity. For instance, the

“shining Water” has “turned to slime and mire,” followed by the “feathered Birds so bright Have

ceased their joyful choir.” This poem expresses symbolism and the reality of changes in

ecosystems and life as a whole. However, it concludes with hope “Until the Gardeners arise, And
you to Life restore.” The Gardens give and show signs of life but they’ve been dwindled, causing

the writer to ‘mourn forevermore.’

Atwood ties in critical environmental issues in the society where the characters live. In

the novel, readers are able to understand more about the Waterless Flood pandemic and the

gradual process of how many species have either gone extinct or are endangered. In the chapters

telling Toby’s perspective, it is stated that “there was an endangered-species luxury couture

operation called Slink.” Additionally, Atwood includes vivid imagery about Toby’s cubicle and

how it “stank of chemicals and rancid fat.” This implies that the Corporations are no longer using

anything natural but are rather bioengineering new species primarily because of experimental

drugs which caused an eroded environment. This situation corresponds to the ​major causes of

extinction section in the Environment chapter of “Sustainable World Sourcebook.” One of the

causes for extinction is labeled ‘pesticides and toxic pollution,’ which is known as the use of

synthetic chemicals in plants, animals, and humans as well. Furthermore, it is explained that

“other sources of potentially lethal pollution include lawn chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and other

industrial chemicals flushed into surface water.” In Toby’s perspective, there is also an

explanation of animal cruelty and various animals that are certified as “disease-free” to gain

customer customer satisfaction for immense profits.

Throughout the novel, characters Toby and Ren join God’s Gardeners; an environmental

religion who is devout to plant and animal life. The leader of this religious group is Adam One,

who has a goal to help those in the group gain survival skills against the pandemic and teach

others how to hunt and gather for food. On Creation Day Year Five, Adam One explains how the

Gardens were once a wasteland in slum but eventually it blossomed over time. In his spoken
word, Adam One says “...covering barren rooftops with greenery we are doing our small part in

the redemption of God’s Creation from the decay that lies around us, and feeding ourselves with

unpolluted food…” This illustrates the strong commitment of God’s Gardeners to surviving the

Waterless Flood and making the Earth more sustainable to live in. Similarly, the “Sustainable

World Sourcebook” chapter of ​Indigenous Survival mirrors how Keepers of the Earth relate to

hunting and gathering while maintaining cultural and traditional practices. In my point of view,

God’s Gardeners and Keepers of the Earth are environmentally and socially related because they

both focus on social justice and sustainability in honoring the Earth. More importantly, human

rights are extremely important in ​The Year of the Flood. Not only is the government body of

CorpseCorps tainted, but families and various relations are dysfunctional as well. This causes

characters such as Toby and Ren to need protection for their individual rights.

From the beginning to the end, readers are eventually are able to understand that God’s

Gardeners reflects Christianity and Indigenous religions. Both the indigenous religion and God’s

Gardeners look to nature and organic sources as a means of survival, and share the belief of

Homo religiosus or “religious humanity”. Additionally, the Indigenous struggled and endlessly

fought to maintain their natural ways of life. They’ve experienced the “Trail of Tears” in 1838

when they faced forceful evacuation, and a smallpox epidemic in 1616 which caused the Native

American population to decrease. God’s Gardeners, (their enemy being CorpseCorps) and those

of indigenous religion experienced illness and mass extinction. God’s Gardeners are similar to

Christians in the animistic view, and share social ecology. Social ecology is the “idea that human

well-being is linked to the well-being of nature.” God’s Gardeners aimed for a peaceful
environment among all species and did not believe in inflicting pain upon anyone or anything,

similar to the ecological christology.

In conclusion, Margaret Atwood accurately reflects and portrays the current state of our

environmental and social problems in her well-written novel. The setting reflects different types

of responses from characters and their experiences. The religion of God’s Gardeners shares

common ground with those of other religions. Atwood also emphasizes a multitude of

environmental and social problems in the novel that has become a mirroring image of the world

we live in today. Her theme of dystopia and destruction elaborates on how severely humans have

faulted the Earth in countless ways. Unfortunately, the truth of our reality will only gradually

worsen as populations steadily increase. However, the best of us continue to carry hope from

within that one day there will be a healthier future and a more sustainable version of Earth.
References:

● Hawked, Paul. ​Sustainable World Sourcebook: Critical Issues, Inspiring Solutions,

Resources for Action.​ 4th ed., Sustainable World Coalition, 2014.

● Atwood, Margaret. ​The Year of the Flood: MaddAddam Trilogy Bk. 2.​ Nan A.

Talese/Doubleday, 2009.

● “Indigenous Religions” - Week 10 Reading

● An Ecological Christology- PowerPoint Week 13