Study Guide

"Madame" in Surfacing

By Margaret Atwood


We never get her actual name, but she's Paul's wife. She used to try to be friendly with the narrator's mother because their husbands were friends; however, because she doesn't speak a lot of English, and the narrator's mother didn't speak a lot of French, they mostly just shouted basic phrases at each other without really communicating: "Neither knew more than five words of the other's language and after the opening Bonjours both would unconsciously raise their voices as though talking to a deaf person" (2.24). The narrator has her own awkward conversation with Madame at the beginning of the novel.