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Interpretation of “This Is a Photograph of Me”

Uploaded by fiwer on Mar 29, 2005

In the poem "This Is a Photograph of Me", Margaret Atwood attempts to depict the parallels between a picture slowly developing and the narrator’s realization of her death.
This poem is divided into two different parts, with the second half separated by brackets. In the first stanza, it is as if the speaker is trying to reminisce (by stating that it was “taken some time ago” l.1) about fuzzy memories (“at first it seems to be/a smeared” l.2-3) of her youth. It then goes on to create a beautiful portrait of part of a Canadian landscape as she recalls her childhood “findings” (things she saw) in the wilderness. She described such natural things as a branch and its location (“left-hand corner” l.7) depicted by the line “part of a tree (balsam or spruce)” (l.8-9).
The second stanza she describes the photograph in more detail, illustrating the location of a “small frame house” that shouldn’t be there (“what ought to be a gentle…” l. 11) and a “slope” (l.12) instead.
The thirds stanza and last part of the first section, she further articulates that “in the background” (l.12) there is “a lake” (1.12) and beyond that some “low hills”.

This half is very lyrical, with repetition of similar sounds lulling the reader into a false sense of peace, but however, it is surprising to find that the speaker is died by drowning (“…the day after I drowned.” l.16). The images of time and space become distorted and muddled; the lake, which is first seen “in the background”, is now “in the center/ of the picture” (l.17-18).
In the last stanza, a symbolic request is made by the author to the reader to search long and hard (“but if you look long enough…” l.24), so as to see past distorted visions (“the effect of water/on light is a distortion” l.22-23) to discover what actually lies below the surface (paraphrase l.18-19: she is under the surface of the lake and can only be seen if searched for intently). “This is a photograph of Me” becomes a frantic search for identity.

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Uploaded by:   fiwer

Date:   03/29/2005

Category:   Poetry

Length:   2 pages (343 words)

Views:   5051

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