Conflict, in general, constitutes the backbone of most of Atwood’s poetry and in it extends to the contention that exists between genders, art and nature, and Canadians as a distinct nation vis-à-vis other people among other binary oppositions.
The highly metaphoric use of language in most of the poems in this collection, but most notably in poems like "Playing Cards" and "An Attempted Solution for Chess Problems" highlight the limitations mankind sets for himself in his interaction with the world in the same way laws and regulations governing children’s games are restricted to the games and not applicable to the real world, outside.
The title poem in this collection, "The Animals in that Country," contrasts nature and history with the way man has recognized them.
The opposition metaphorically addresses how different animals hold distinct positions in different cultures; hence "the fox run / politely to earth, [and] the huntsmen / standing around him, fixed / in their tapestry of manners" refer to the importance of the fox to the British people.
By juxtaposing the artificiality of language and the constructive quality of art in general with nature Atwood comments on the arbitrariness of man’s life in regards to such genuine concepts as love and literature.
Atwood’s next collection of poems, (1968) carries on the theme of conflict between man and nature with a particular emphasis on environmental issues.The occupation of her father as a prominent entomological researcher had a drastic effect on the eventual career of his daughter.Margaret Atwood discovered her interest in nature and natural phenomena at a very early age due to the site of her father’s research which was often the woods in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec where the family mostly spent its summers.Not as conspicuous in the treatment of environmental and socio-cultural issues as most of her later poetry is, the poems in this collection almost unanimously highlight the perpetual contrast and the inherent conflict between nature and the ways adopted by mankind to dominate it.(1966), for which Atwood received the prestigious Governor General award in 1967, brought the poet to the attention of the literary world and developed the theme of contrast between man and nature to the fullest.Sullivan was born in the small town of Valois on Lac Saint-Louis, just outside Montreal, Quebec. Thomas High School, she attended Mc Gill University on a scholarship, and received her bachelor's degree in 1968.After she was married, in 1968, she attended the University of Connecticut, where she received her MA in 1969.In a similar way in the Spanish culture, "the bull, embroidered / with blood and given / an elegant death, trumpets, his name / stamped in him, heraldic brand" is different from its counterpart in Canada: "In this country the animals / have the faces of / animals" and "Their deaths are not elegant." Although most of the poems in this collection address the more general issues of environment and the discrepancies between man and nature, some of the poems in deal with more specific subjects like the alienation of mankind in a non-feeling environment as suggested by these lines from "What happened": "No wires tender even as nerves / can transmit the impact of / our seasons, our catastrophes / while we are closed inside them." There is certainly a large gap, according to Atwood, distancing mankind from his fellow men, but he has, undoubtedly, also traveled afar from his true nature as the following lines from "What Happened" highlight: Meanwhile on several areas of my skin, strange bruises glow and fade, and I can’t remember what accidents I had, whether I was badly hurt, how long ago.Leaving one’s country behind, immigrating to a country like Canada with all the physical hardship it bears for an early settler, as well as the recurrent themes of the impossibility of thorough communication between men and the growing alienation they experience find their way in (1970) which captures the struggles of Susanna Moodie, as a pioneer woman.In (1970) the power of the unconscious to shape the persona is taken to an unprecedented level.In a general sense, all Atwood’s poems deal with a search for identity in different levels and in this collection, the nature of the supernatural connection between man and nature and "the artist as a shamanistic figure" (Hönnighausen 105) give further rise to this quest.