This Is a Photograph of Me

Main Ideas in This is a Photograph of Me Poem

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer

Analysis of Margaret Atwood’s This is a Photograph of Me

The day after I drowned.

These lines are the fourth stanza of the poem and are located approximately in the center of the piece. I think that the fact that the lines are located in the center is important because to me these lines signify a turning point in the poem or in other words a sort of catharsis. The beginning of the poem is mostly concerned with the surface level details of the photo such as small details like trees and houses. The beginning of the poem seems like it simply a poetic description of a beautiful scene. But then these lines completely change the tone and mood of the poem. What at first seemed light hearted is now dark and dreary.

To me, these lines signify the beginning of the second part of the poem which is juxtaposed with the first. The first line in the poem begins “It was taken” and then the line I chose begins “The photograph was taken” which is essentially just a rephrasing of the first line and therefore a use of repetition. This use of repetition implies as I said before, a new chapter in the poem which will give insight and a new perspective on the first. The two contrast with each other in several ways but at the same point, they rely on each other for meaning. Essentially the catharsis that takes place here is impossible without the preceding lines and our changed perception of these lines is impossible without this catharsis.

Another aspect of these lines that is crucial to understanding it is its use of the passive tense. Instead of using the active voice and saying something along the lines of “the person took the photo the day after I drowned” she uses the passive by saying it was taken. In writing it is generally agreed upon that using the passive voice should be avoided so her repeated use of it makes it notable. Especially given that this is a poem not prose and she likely chose her words and style very carefully. This use of the passive voice is relevant because having your picture taken is a passive act. Even though we often think of things like photos as objective they certainly are not. The photographer can change several things such as lighting or the angle to make the subject of the photo appear completely different.

So by using the passive voice, Atwood draws attention to the passive nature of this photo. The photo can be seen as a metaphor for how we see the world. If we approach this from a feminist perspective we can see this as how in our patriarchal society, men create and tell women’s stories rather than women themselves. Atwood says the photo was taken the day after she drowned and this could be alluding to this fact. Atwood is trying to allude to the fact that having your stories taken from you is in itself a sort of drowning and ultimately death. Conveying yourself through art is a vibrant expression of life while having this stolen and co-opted by others for their benefit is death.

So the fact that she is writing this poem is in and of itself and act of subversion against this misappropriation. Her story was taken from her but in the act of writing, she is taking it back and now letting the audience see it from her perspective. Rather than being the passive subject she is taking on the active role of conveying. This is also subversive because women have been historically seen as passive beings incapable of critical or intellectual thought and by writing this poem she is a living contradiction to this notion. Ultimately I believe she is trying to change the perspective of the audience who likely see patriarchy ar normalized through her subversive personal expression

One way she tries to change the perspective of the audience is through juxtaposing the surface with the what is beneath it and invoking the audience to look deeper. In the line I chose, the use of parentheses is a critical component of the poem. What may seem to be just mere punctuation is able to help convey the theme I mentioned above. In writing, parentheses are generally used to convey information that is supplementary but not critical to the meaning of the sentence. It is a meaning that is in the background but not the forefront. This connects to the fact that the first part of the poem describes what is on the surface of the picture and it is what appears immediately to those who cast their gaze upon it.

But Atwood tells the reader that if you look closer you will see her under the water. The water here seems to represent patriarchy and dominant cultural ideals which distort and hide her from plain view. Not only do they do this but they have killed her in a metaphorical sense as well. They have drowned out her sense of self because they are so suffocating and constricting. By placing this catharsis within parentheses she is suggesting that real truth does not lay on the surface. Even going into the background where the lake is located is not enough. One has to separate themselves from their initial impressions and look beyond the background to see below the surface where real truth lies.

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Understanding of This is a Photograph of Me Poem

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer

Eerie, my one-word description of Margaret Atwoods poem, This Is a Photograph of Me written in 1939. Based off of the words, the layout, and what the poem actually says is what gave me this eerie sense of feeling. The poem also gave me a feeling that I overlooked something so in turn I read it over and over again, this lead me to a very important conclusion. The poem is about a person being overseen and the feelings that go along with not being seen when in fact the person is right there in front of you. I think that this is a poem about herself and how distant she may come from her piece it is still about her.

Parentheses play a big role in this poem because in the first half of the poem describes the picture with hills, a house, a lake, and a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree / (balsam or spruce) emerging. The fact that it is described as a thing like a branch gives the idea that it is not surly known what it is. Also the way the parentheses are used around two different types of trees is important because that also gives question to what is really there. This is important to note because the only other time that parentheses are used is in the whole second half of the poem where Atwood reveals it is a picture of her the day after drowning.

In this second half, it is also said that she is in the center of the picture in the lake. Once again there is a lot of uncertainty of the description. Atwood uses a lot of vague language on the description of self, especially in stanza six: It is difficult to say where precisely, or to say / how large or small I am: / the effect of water / on light is a distortion. All of this language plays to the fact that she is so hard to see, even though she is in the center of the picture.

Back to the first stanza, some of the words and phrases Atwood here also give uncertainty, such as: some time ago, smeared, and blurred lines. All these statements have a commonality, they have no definite. Meaning that they do not give a boundary, they are not absolute, they are all vague. These words and phrases contribute to my analysis that it is about someone being overlooked and some of the feelings they might have such as unable to be seen and easily blended in, blurry; a feeling of death.

This poem is also slightly ironic because in is not a typical poem of rhymes and structure, it is as though Atwood is talking to the reader, but it is impossible to write a poem or talk to someone after death. I think this helps my case that we do not need to take the death in the poem literally but metaphorically as a feeling of being dead. She is always looked over, the picture describes Atwoods life because everything around her is normal and easily described blurry but there. Though she is just under the surface of the water and hard to see because the water / on the light distortion. This statement is also backwards: water / on light, just like a story of someones death.

This is a poem of Atwoods life and how she is very hard to see in the whole scheme of things. It is once said that once a poet puts a piece out that they no longer are part of it. So I think that this is a poem about herself and how distant she may come from her piece it is still about her.

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Emotions from Reading This is a Photograph of Me Poem

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer

This Is a Photograph of Me

“This is a Photograph of Me” by Margaret Atwood, is a poem that starts off as the reader describing a photograph of herself. The reader interprets the photograph that the speaker is explaining, and makes it seem like the photo can be seen but it can not. The reader explains in detail how the photograph should be viewed and interpreted so it is more developed and understood. The description explains a view of a house, a lake, a small tree branch and a hill in the background. However, in the second half of the poem it explains that the photo is exactly where the woman had drowned and was taken shortly after she had died. The feminist criticism approach relates to the text and the poem is filled with symbolism throughout the context and structure of the poem. Women are often viewed through distorted eyes and of certain stereotypes and expectations leaving women in today’s society to feel misunderstood and not heard. Atwood who is seen to be alive while reading this poem, is actually dead, and outlines the perception of women and their views in society compared to men through the use of feminist symbols in the text.

The poem does not precisely have a specified time or place and is given a very limited amount of explanation to the setting of the poem. The photograph signifies a symbol; the symbol of her history. The image throughout the poem that the speaker is trying to imply is that the image is left very unclear and unknown, almost like the photograph is “blurry”. Therefore that is similar to her history which is left unknown and we are never really able to develop much about the woman in the poem and/or her past. Therefore, the photograph is a well developed symbol of her history with questions left unanswered and the distorted view of feminism and negative stereotypes displayed on women. The use of words throughout the poem display that the speaker is unclear just as much as the reader reading the poem is. As well, the photograph is described as a blurred picture where the light has become very dull and dim, leaving the picture very hard to look at. “At first it seems to be a smeared print: blurred lines and grey flecks blended with the paper;….” (Atwood 1). The light is another symbol of the society of women and a sense of creativity. This relates to the feminist critical approach because women are not seen as equal as men. If women did important work than it is more shadowed and frowned upon than if a man did the same task at hand. Therefore, the light of the picture signifies that women are not seen as such bright lights compared to males who are looked up upon.

The branches of a tree are introduced and described in brief detail and being one of the only things that are visual and able to see in the image. In the poem, the speaker describes how in the left hand corner there are branches of a tree. The branches have begun to grow over to the right hand corner of the photograph where a frame house is seen as very blurry in the background. The frame house symbolizes the male figure in a society. Since the frame house is on the right side of the image than the right side is usually significantly stronger than the left side. Right side is usually dominant when throwing a ball, writing an essay, or throwing a punch and the left side is generally weaker at those things. In society females are seen to be “weaker” out of the two genders. Women are often not physically stronger than men so a lot of tasks can not be completed by both genders. As well, the right side has all of the power of the roots and shows that male have more say and power in a community of people. Generally, a single tree branch can not be held together or grown stronger without the help of the roots and the nutrients that it gives the tree. This relates to the roles and duties of male and female because stereotypes are made about how women can not merely do as much as men in terms of jobs and sports, so they need to branch off of males and work for them or they will not become successful. There are plenty of stereotypes in terms of females not being able to make us much money as males, or women supposed to do housework and cook rather than working in a hands on job that they are not “capable” of doing.

It is learnt while reading the poem that the woman is actually dead and the image is taken after her corpse is already in the lake. This shows reader response criticism because this text can be taken in more than one way and often misinterpreted and a sense of foreshadowing. In the photo, a large lake is described that surrounds the photo and the plenty of hills and valleys in the background. The lake in the photo is a symbol of the society and the valley and hills is the symbolism of what is beyond the lake, which is the society. The hills are often covered and go unnoticed due to the reflection of the lake and the focus on how beautiful the water looks whether it is during a sunset or when the sun rises in the morning. The hills are the problem because females are in hidden from reality and are so criticised by what the stereotypes say about them that they are unable to look beyond it. Atwood is able to display this because she is drowned in the lake and was overtaken by the idea of the society and what they say about it that she was really never able to get her identity and be the woman that she could be. This could be interpreted in a way than she was trying to reach the hills and valleys across the lake but was dragged and overwhelmed by the thought of society and the reality of the thoughts, or the fact that she was upset and humiliated to the point that she wanted to take her own life. It is shown that the small frame house may be a problem towards feminism but the lake is what made her reach the breaking point and come to the realization that feminism criticism all begins with the society and how people interpret things.

Atwood who is seen to be alive while reading this poem, is actually dead, and outlines the perception of women and their views in society compared to men through the formalism of the text. The symbols show the importance of male social roles and how they come ahead when relating to women and their societal views. The photograph is described as a very blurry picture that symbolizes the brief view of feminism and her history and a story which is unknown. The branches signify the leading stems off of the male and the lake shows the roles of the society and how they can take over the thoughts of women. Even though the presence of the women is still there, you can not see the hills and valleys, which is what’s beyond the lake which is women’s view’s, because of the society and reality of the stereotypes. “Despite all the discrimination I am there. They can destroy my photograph but cannot destroy my existence” (Atwood 1), this quote comes from the speaker as she is explaining that society may be able to destroy the thought that she died but will never be able to take away the feminism that is seen throughout

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Discovering the Themes and Symbolism in Poem This is A Photograph of Me

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

In poetry it is important for meanings and themes to be conveyed to us in a unique and interesting manner. Margaret Atwood uses many literary devices so the reader can really feel her poems and come to a greater understanding through her wonderful narrative voices. In the poem, “This is a Photograph of Me,” Atwood uses haunting, ambiguous imagery to bring the piece to life and support its mysterious theme.

The first image we receive from the poem is in the title itself. The image is an actually “image” of the narrative voice. We get a pretty good idea that the “photograph” of the narrator will be revealed to us by the straight-forward title. As we begin to delve into the poem itself, we discover that it appears to be a “smeared print” at first. This imagery hints to us quite literally that there is much more to this photograph than “blurred lines and grey flecks blended with paper” and on a more hidden level it reveals something much deeper that we discover in the latter half.

In the second stanza the narrator, “she” if you will, begins to guide us through a deeper understanding of the cryptic blurriness of the print. She points out to us not a branch, but a “thing that is like a branch.” This adds to the mystery of the picture and begins to build a curiousness about our narrator. We are shown “part of a tree emerging,” which gives another hint to secrets which will soon “emerge” and be revealed. There’s also “a gentle slope, a small frame house,” which would normally have a positive connotation, but the “ought to be” in front of the two descriptions, gives the images the ambiguity and mysticism like the rest of the poem.

The third stanza consists of a two-line sentence which describes the background of the photo. We are told of “a lake, and beyond that, some low hills.” In its presentation as a short, separate image, it feels far away and dream-like. Then, in the fourth stanza, we are told by the narrator that this is a picture taken after she drowned. It is very shocking, especially after the still, silent images we have been painted, but not too surprising because the imagery prepares the reader for the true intent of the narrator’s voice.

In the fifth stanza, she tells us she is in the center of the picture, just under the surface. The imagery here is simple but very effective. We begin to piece together the “hidden” image of her body, already dead for a day in that calm, gray water. In just a simple description we wonder many things, which are not answered. Who is our narrator? How is she telling this “story?” Who took the picture? Her murderer? The search party? A photographer unknowing about what was “just under the surface?”

In the sixth stanza, the ambiguity continues with the narrator not sure exactly where her body was or how large or small. These are simple descriptive questions that move us with a subdued horror. Then there is the image that seems to sum up the whole feeling of the poem: “the effect of water on the light is a distortion.” The whole photograph is a distortion of the harsh reality of the situation. In the last stanza, we are informed that if we look long enough we’ll see her. Again, a line that doesn’t make sense and leaves us questioning the mysticism and blurriness of the piece. Will she really “emerge” if we keep looking?

With each stanza we are revealed a deeper meaning. Concrete imagery of the photo reveals the mysteriousness, and in the last half, the imagery paints the uncertain and the intangible. We are left uneasy and wondering, just like the blurry imagery presented.

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Close Reading and Interpretation of the Fourth Stanza of This is a Photograph of Me

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

These lines are the fourth stanza of the poem and are located approximately in the center of the piece. I think that the fact that the lines are located in the center is important because to me these lines signify a turning point in the poem or in other words a sort of catharsis. The beginning of the poem is mostly concerned with the surface level details of the photo such as small details like trees and houses. The beginning of the poem seems like it simply a poetic description of a beautiful scene. But then these lines completely change the tone and mood of the poem. What at first seemed light hearted is now dark and dreary.

To me, these lines signify the beginning of the second part of the poem which is juxtaposed with the first. The first line in the poem begins “It was taken” and then the line I chose begins “The photograph was taken” which is essentially just a rephrasing of the first line and therefore a use of repetition. This use of repetition implies as I said before, a new chapter in the poem which will give insight and a new perspective on the first. The two contrast with each other in several ways but at the same point, they rely on each other for meaning. Essentially the catharsis that takes place here is impossible without the preceding lines and our changed perception of these lines is impossible without this catharsis.

Another aspect of these lines that is crucial to understanding it is its use of the passive tense. Instead of using the active voice and saying something along the lines of “the person took the photo the day after I drowned” she uses the passive by saying it was taken. In writing it is generally agreed upon that using the passive voice should be avoided so her repeated use of it makes it notable. Especially given that this is a poem not prose and she likely chose her words and style very carefully. This use of the passive voice is relevant because having your picture taken is a passive act. Even though we often think of things like photos as objective they certainly are not. The photographer can change several things such as lighting or the angle to make the subject of the photo appear completely different.

So by using the passive voice, Atwood draws attention to the passive nature of this photo. The photo can be seen as a metaphor for how we see the world. If we approach this from a feminist perspective we can see this as how in our patriarchal society, men create and tell women’s stories rather than women themselves. Atwood says the photo was taken the day after she drowned and this could be alluding to this fact. Atwood is trying to allude to the fact that having your stories taken from you is in itself a sort of drowning and ultimately death. Conveying yourself through art is a vibrant expression of life while having this stolen and co-opted by others for their benefit is death.

So the fact that she is writing this poem is in and of itself and act of subversion against this misappropriation. Her story was taken from her but in the act of writing, she is taking it back and now letting the audience see it from her perspective. Rather than being the passive subject she is taking on the active role of conveying. This is also subversive because women have been historically seen as passive beings incapable of critical or intellectual thought and by writing this poem she is a living contradiction to this notion. Ultimately I believe she is trying to change the perspective of the audience who likely see patriarchy ar normalized through her subversive personal expression

One way she tries to change the perspective of the audience is through juxtaposing the surface with the what is beneath it and invoking the audience to look deeper. In the line I chose, the use of parentheses is a critical component of the poem. What may seem to be just mere punctuation is able to help convey the theme I mentioned above. In writing, parentheses are generally used to convey information that is supplementary but not critical to the meaning of the sentence. It is a meaning that is in the background but not the forefront. This connects to the fact that the first part of the poem describes what is on the surface of the picture and it is what appears immediately to those who cast their gaze upon it.

But Atwood tells the reader that if you look closer you will see her under the water. The water here seems to represent patriarchy and dominant cultural ideals which distort and hide her from plain view. Not only do they do this but they have killed her in a metaphorical sense as well. They have drowned out her sense of self because they are so suffocating and constricting. By placing this catharsis within parentheses she is suggesting that real truth does not lay on the surface. Even going into the background where the lake is located is not enough. One has to separate themselves from their initial impressions and look beyond the background to see below the surface where real truth lies.

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