Emotions from Reading This is a Photograph of Me Poem
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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