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Death of a Young Son by Drowning - Poem by Margaret Atwood

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Anil Menon

on 27 April 2016

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Transcript of Death of a Young Son by Drowning - Poem by Margaret Atwood

Death of a Young Son by Drowning - by Margaret Atwood
POEM
Theme and Analysis
Candian Elements
The poem displays Canadian elements mostly through medium of nature. Throughout the poem, nature was involved. For example, “he swirled with ice and trees in the swollen water” (line 3, stanza 3)
poetic style
Transitioning of Tone
POETIC dEVICES
Figurative Imagery
He, who navigated with success
the dangerous river of his own birth
once more set forth

on a voyage of discovery
into the land I floated on
but could not touch to claim.

His feet slid on the bank,
the currents took him;
he swirled with ice and trees in the swollen water

and plunged into distant regions,
his head a bathysphere;
through his eyes' thin glass bubbles

he looked out, reckless adventurer
on a landscape stranger than Uranus
we have all been to and some remember.

There was an accident; the air locked,
he was hung in the river like a heart.
They retrieved the swamped body,

cairn of my plans and future charts,
with poles and hooks
from among the nudging logs.

It was spring, the sun kept shining, the new grass
leapt to solidity;
my hands glistened with details.

After the long trip I was tired of waves.
My foot hit rock. The dreamed sails
collapsed, ragged.

I planted him in this country
like a flag.
The main theme of this poem is to achieve new goals in life no matter the circumstances. This theme is built throughout the poem starting with stanza 1, where the speaker describes the protagonist as an achiever who can attempts challenges and results in great success. Whereas the mother, who seems alienated from the country she lives in; “into the land I floated on but could not touch to claim” (line 2 and 3, stanza 2). In stanza 3 we realize that the protagonist’s “feet slid on the bank” (line 1, stanza 3) and that causes him to fall into the river, washing him away from his mother. This could be described as the turning point of the poem. In stanza 6 we realize that the protagonist dies in his struggle to escape the treacherous power of the river. “It was spring, the sun kept shining, the new grass leapt to solidity” (line 1, stanza 8) narrates a moral that describes to move on from the incidents no matter the circumstance and to persevere. It also shows a rebirth even though her son dies. A rebirth for the mother to conquer this alienated country she is living in by herself. “I planted him in this country like a flag” (line 1 and 2, stanza 10) shows resolution from the unfortunate situation and is a sign of moving on with life and achieving new goals.
“It was spring, the sun kept shining, the new grass leapt to solidity” (line 1 and 2, stanza 8).
“on a landscape stranger than Uranus” (line 2, stanza 5).
The poem transitions from a tone of happiness and positivity to sadness and negativity. For example, “He, who navigated with success” (line 1, stanza 1), “on a voyage of discovery” (line 1, stanza 2), displays goals or determination and overall it creates one’s mindset to be positive. But a complete change in tone occurs in Stanza 3 where the speaker says, “His feet slid on the bank, the currents took him” (lines 1 and 2, stanza 3) and also stanza 6; “There was an accident; the air locked, he was hung in the river like a heart”. This change of tone is significant in the poem because it shows how at one second you are with the one you love and care for, and the next second they are gone.The narrator Margaret Atwood creates such an effective change in tone to make her poem more entertaining and unpredictable.
The texts used in this poem can create images in one’s mind and also compares what has been described to something else.
Metaphors
“on a voyage of discovery” (line 1, stanza 2)
Atwood is comparing a voyage to the river to her son’s fate and what she is literally going to discover.
“My foot hit rock” (line 2, stanza 9)
One could compare the rock to her emotional status, she hit her rock bottom. The lowest stage a person could reach. It also shows reminiscence and sorrow that the mother has for her son.
“his head a bathysphere; through his eyes’ thin glass bubbles” (line 2, and 3, stanza 4)
A bathysphere main purpose is for deep-sea observation, and the speaker compares the bathysphere to his eyes that is forced to see under the water since he’s drowning in the water.
Simile
“I planted him in this country like a flag" (lines 4 and 5, stanza 9)
Compares the death of her son to the hoisting of the flag. Flags are used mostly to show patriotism for the nation, in this case the mother plants him like a flag indirectly means that he holds a big place in her heart, comparing the heart to a nation.

It could also show that the mother is gaining confidence in herself since she considers herself as an outsider to the country.
Alliteration
“he swirled with ice and trees in the swollen water” (line 3 stanza 3)
The words “swirled” and “swollen” stands out in this line and it creates an image of someone or something being twisted and controlled by the river; in this context, it would be the son of the mother who is drowning in a rapidly flowing river.
“he was hung in the river like a heart” (line 2, stanza 6)
the words “hung” and “heart” could also create an image that compares the word “hung” to some sort of branch holding on to someone and “heart” as in the heart of that person. Thus this sentence could create an image of a person being stuck on a branch in rapidly flowing river.
Point of View
The poem is said by the mother’s perspective throughout the entire poem. One could realize that this poem is being said by a mother because first of all, the title of the poem uses the word “son” which means it could be narrated by a parent. Adding on to that idea, one could say that the parent is a mother because of the style or language of this poem.

Symbolism

There were two symbols that had great significance in this poem.

• River: The river can be deceiving. It could be calm and soothing and beautiful to look at but at the same time, it tarnishes anything is a blink of an eye and could even take one’s life such as the son in this case.







• Flag: The main purpose of a flag is to show patriotism for a nation. In this case, to show the mother’s love for the son and that she has gained even more confidence in herself than ever before.



The poem seems like it was first written in sentence form and then broken apart to 3 sentences per stanza. Margaret Atwood might have done it this way to maintain the reader’s attention. It gains the interest of the readers.
Enjambment was used in this poem. For example:
“His feet slid on the bank,
the currents took him;
he swirled with ice and trees in the swollen water

and plunged into distant regions,
his head a bathysphere;
through his eyes’ thin glass bubbles

he looked out, reckless adventurer
on a landscape stranger than Uranus
we have all been to and some remember”(stanza 3 to stanza 5).

This section of the poem, Atwood does not place a full pause (period) until “remember”. This might have been done to gain the attention of the readers since this is the climax of the poem and it therefore influences the readers to keep reading.

Sentence/Punctuation
The poem is divided into three lines per stanza. This poem in particular does not display any rhyme or rhythm making it not possible for this poem to be a tercet which is a three lined-stanza that often contains a rhyme.
Line length
This poem is written informal yet the main idea/theme of the story is conveyed indirectly. This poem uses figurative language and displays a lot of poetic and literary devices. The diction and word choices that is used by Margaret Atwood are not only effective but keeps an image of a certain situation in the poem, in the reader’s minds. For example, “discovery”, “currents”, “swirled”, “bathysphere” and “spring” etc.

Level of Language/Diction
IMPRESSION OF THIS POEM

I found this poem to be very interesting and it easily captivated my attention right from the start. The poem is more of a story book than it is of a poem. It has an introduction, rising action, climax and a resolution to it. This is the first element I noticed and the style that Margaret Atwood wrote it in, makes it so much more interesting. The types of words she uses makes a clear image in one’s mind of what a particular situation might look like. Overall, the idea behind the poem was the driving force for this whole piece.
The main reason I chose this poem is because of the main idea of the poem. As the title mentions, “Death of a Young Son by Drowning”, when a person reads this title, they would be intrigued to know how and why the protagonist might have drowned. In that same way, it grabbed my attention and hence I decided to select this poem. Not only is the title fascinating, the overall theme behind it is amazing. To move on from a death of a loved one is the hardest goal to ever accomplish; and by the mother’s actions in the end where she “…planted him in this country like a flag” (line 1 and 2, stanza 10), shows perseverance. It narrates a moral to the readers that life is too short to grieve on something that cannot be changed, hence it is better to move on and accomplish new goals.
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