Margaret Atwood on life and debt


On our way to the crossword puzzle, I had to stop and read Gary this terrific op ed piece by Margaret Atwood in Sunday's Houston Chronicle. In "A matter of life and debt: Moral balance must be restored for recovery of financial system", Atwood (author The Handmaid's Tale et al) discusses the spiritual consequences of borrowing and lending, setting the morality and human condition of indebtedness in historical and literary context.

Here's a bit of it:
Debtor-creditor bonds are also central to the plots of many novels — especially those from the 19th century, when the boom-and-bust cycles of manufacturing and no-holds-barred capitalism were new and frightening phenomena, and ruined many. Such stories tell what happens when you don't pay, won't pay or can't pay, and when official punishments ranged from debtors' prisons to debt slavery.

In Uncle Tom's Cabin, for example, human beings are sold to pay off the rashly contracted debts. In Madame Bovary, a provincial wife takes not only to love and extramarital sex as an escape from boredom, but also — more dangerously — to overspending. She poisons herself when her unpaid creditor threatens to expose her double life. Had Emma Bovary but learned double-entry bookkeeping and drawn up a budget, she could easily have gone on with her hobby of adultery.

Check it out. And while we're at it, here's a link to O.W. Toad, the Margaret Atwood Information Site.

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