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It is said that hindsight is 20/20, that we can only see clearly when looking at the past and seeing the mistakes we may have made. In relationships this is especially true and we frequently do not see what went wrong until the relationship is over. In her short story titled "The Age of Lead," Margaret Atwood reviews this concept that only in retrospect can we know our faults. Jane is the protagonist of the story. She is a woman who relives the relationship she had with Vincent. Vincent died when he was 42 years old from a mysterious disease that no one knows about. Jane begins to think about Vincent while watching a television program about a man uncovered after many decades frozen in ice and she begins to reminisce about Vincent. They were lovers in life and Jane wonders about their relationship together and what it meant.
When Vincent was still alive, Jane's perspective on their life and relationship together was ideal. Jane Vincent dreamed of a perfect life of freedom where they would be free to do what they wanted. They craved a life with nothing to hold them down and nothing was protected from them, where they were completely free from judgment, critique and social obligations. They compared their ideal life to an advertisement for tampons that they would see. In the tampon advertisement, the tampons were marketed as " "no belts, no pins, no pads, no chafing" which is how they wanted their life together to be. But after the death of Vincent, Jane realizes in looking back that this idea of perfect freedom is just an illusion.
Jane now knows that the dreams she shared with Vincent could never be real. She knows this because she realizes that there are "consequences to things you didn't even know you'd done." This means that she could never really be free because there will always be something to hold her down, a consequence for her actions even though she was not aware that she had even done anything. This is seen through the dead body of Vincent. Vincent suffered and died from a mysterious disease that no one could figure out. In a way, he paid the consequence for something he did not know of and there was not anything he could do about it. Unlike when you smoke and you get lung cancer, you know you should not have been smoking. Vincent did not know what he did wrong to be sick and he died tragically at a relatively young age.