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The Immigrants by MARGARET ATWOOD
Transcript of The Immigrants by MARGARET ATWOOD
They carry their carpetbags and trunks
with clothes, dishes, the family pictures;
they think they will make an order
like the old one, sow miniature orchards,
carve children and flocks out of wood
Margaret Atwood is a Canadian writer and novelist. She was born in Ottawa, Canada on November 18, 1939
She studied in University of Toronto, becoming a lecturer in English Literature
The poem The Immigrants is an excerpt from Margaret Atwood's novel "The Journals of Susanna Moodie"
Their heads stuck out of the windows
at the stations. drinking milk of singing,
their features hidden with beards or shawls
day and night riding across an ocean of unknown
Land to an unknown land.
From The Journals of Susanna Moodie
discuss the arrival of the Immigrants into their new country
think they will live life in the new land as they did in their old country
are unable to do so because they are too poor
Immigrant returning to visit the homeland
no longer accepted by the people back home
"their tongues stumble among awkward teeth" (Atwood, 28-29)
Homeland is no longer what it used to be
"The towns in time have crumbled" (Atwood, 27-28)
Wishes she could forget about the immigrant struggle & the past
"I wish I could forget them/and so forget myself" (Atwood, 31-32)
Decoding the poem
Land is handed down to them
Corporations want to construct on the land & take it over
Are told to leave, "declare them obsolete" (Atwood, 9)
forcing them to immigrate
Ends with an image of one going from "an ocean of unknown land to an unknown land." (Atwood, 40-41)
the first unknown refers to the homeland which has become unfamiliar to them because of the rural development
the second unknown is the new land which they are immigrating to
not sure what it will be like or what to expect
They are allowed to inherit
the sidewalks involved as palmlines, bricks
exhausted and soft, the deep
lawnsmells, orchards whorled
to the land's contours, the inflected weather
only to be told they are too poor
to keep it up, or someone
has noticed and wants to kill them; or the towns
pass laws which declare them obsolete.
I see them coming
up from the hold smelling of vomit,
infested, emaciated, their skins grey
with travel; as they step on shore
the old countries recede, become
perfect, thumbnail castles preserved
like gallstones in a glass bottle, the
towns dwindle upon the hillsides
in a light, paperweight-clear.
but always they are too poor, the sky
its flat, the green fruit shrivels
in the prairies sun, wood is for burning;
and if they go back, they towns
in time have crumpled, their tongues
stumble among awkward teeth, their ears
are filled the sound of breaking glass.
I wish I could forget them
and so forget myself:
My mind is a wide pink map
across which move year after year
arrows and dotted lines, further and further,
people in railway cars
When immigrants move to another country hoping to forget their homeland, they tend to get lost and forget themselves.
"day and night riding across an ocean of unknown
Land to an unknown land" (Atwood 40-41)
Tone - Negative
"They carry their carpet bags and trunks...
... but always they are too poor" (Atwood, 19-24)
A person who is to immigrate should fully understand and should be mentally prepared to comply with the situation(s) they may have to face while or after immigrating to a new country.