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This is a Photograph of Me by Margaret Atwood

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Amy Hasselman

on 8 November 2013

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Transcript of This is a Photograph of Me by Margaret Atwood

It was taken some time ago.
At first it seems to be
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you see in the left-hand corner
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree
(balsam or spruce) emerging
and, to the right, halfway up
what ought to be a gentle
slope, a small frame house.
In the background there is a lake,
and beyond that, some low hills.

I am in the lake, in the center
of the picture, just under the surface.

(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.
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

but if you look long enough,
you will be able to see me.)
Internal Structure and Thought Development
Literary Form/Overall Structure

Imagery and Poetic Devices
Historical and Biographical Outline:
Literary Period:
Did she succeed?
Diction and Stylistic Devices
1939 -> present, Ottawa, ON
won many awards, such as the Governor General's- twice!
better known for novels rather than poetry
poems are often inspired by myths or fairy tales
studied at Victoria College, UofT, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in philosophy and French
spent much time in Ontario's wilderness
very abstract
does not follow a set form, but has a certain structure to it, like a story
free verse
1st person
woman who drowned in the lake, forgotten
the poem is targeted towards a mature audience - those who support feminism
First two paragraphs are almost entirely imagery, it's describing a picture
Rhyme: "Eventually, you will be able to see me"
Repetition: "To say"
Beneath everything, in every picture, there are always people and things behind the scenes, or even hidden in plain sight. They influence the picture, despite not being its focal point and seldom being noticed.
To ensure that we do not disregard and overlook those who are responsible for the pictures, rather than those that are in it.
Alliteration: "thing that", "look long"

Opposites: "how large or small I am"

Metaphor: “the effect of water on light is a distortion” - means that women provide light to others through their service but society distorts this

Symbols: “a small frame house” exemplifies man-made objects which have predominance over women, the “low hills” represent the challenges of female prejudice, and “a lake” is emblematic of society

Commas: "blurred lines and gray flecks," and "In the background there is a lake," and "but if you look long enough,"

Colons/Semi-colons: "how large or small I am:" and "blended with paper;"

End Punctuation: "...a small frame house." and "...just under the surface."

Brackets: "(balsam or spruce)" and "(The photograph...you will be able to see me.)"


Atwood describes the photograph using descriptive language which can be easily visualized by the reader
the photograph was basically taken the day after she drowned; her corpse rests in the lake
first three stanzas are mysterious, obscure, puzzling and peaceful
last four stanzas are tranquil; however, it is a little disturbing, melancholic and depressing
The End
This is a Photograph of Me

Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood has a feminist's perspective
photograph gradually develops leading to the reader’s realization of her death
Atwood who seems alive but is actually dead in the poem, explores the facades that women accept in order to conform in patriarchal society – she explains the appearance and reality of women
women have always been looked down upon (intellectually disregarded)
the brackets imply the stance of and de-emphasizes women
reinforces that she (women in general) performs only as the supplement to the photograph of our society
she wants people to not limit themselves to superficiality but notice the real essence, importance and profound significance of women
the diminishing image and identity of the poetess reflect the state of women

It is serene even when she was submerged underwater and died
yes, indeed
she was able to deliver the feminist perspective through a photograph
keeping the tone quite consistent she allowed the reader to dive deeply into the poem to unravel the truth behind every part of the photograph, leaving a great message behind
Thanks for listening.
Full transcript