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Famous Poets’ Poems - Poems about life – Poems of Margaret Atwood,This is a Photograph of Me,poems on identity

Updated on August 23, 2012

Famous poets' poems

Link below is a detailed study of the poems of Robert Frost, the singer of nostalgia

Robert Frost Poems Birches and Into my own detailed analysis

Poetry Comparison – compare poems

Poetry Margaret Atwood

Analysis of Margaret Atwood’s poems: Poet Margaret Atwood's poems, ‘This is a Photograph of Me’ and ‘Progressive insanities of a pioneer’ can be compared for its common themes. Both these poems comment on selfhood and the difficulties involved in establishing an identity.

Margaret Atwood's This is a Photograph of Me Analysis

Margaret Atwood's poem, ‘This is a Photograph of Me’ reveals the struggle of a woman who finds it difficult to establish her identity in her society. She is found to be living a life as good as dead. The poem reveals women’s stand in the society. The very setting of the poem reveals the disadvantaged state of women in the society. The agonies of women who undergo extreme segregation is evident in the poem. The fuzzy idealized setting and the small frame house helps us understand the general theme of the poem. The background of the poem is related to women’s place in the society. In the poem we see that the speaker is present but under the surface. The speaker is hidden, not revealing herself fully. We find her more de-emphasized by the usage of the brackets in the last half. The picture is shown in layers. She is found to be hidden inside the layers. Readers are asked to look far enough so that they can see her. These layers are the layers of stereotype that restrict women. Women do not have a clear presence in the society. They can be seen only through the layers of stereotypes. She has only a secondary consideration. Her status is inferior always. She is hidden, unable to establish her identity. The speaker’s position is that as if she is inside. Her status shows her unimportant status in the society. The speaker is pushed off from the mainstream of the society. The branch in the poem can be related to the relationship of the speaker with family. The house shadows the society, the slope shows the challenges and the lake symbolizes the origin of life. The water that disturbs the light symbolizes the restricted state of women in the society. The poet is trying to say that the speaker could not overcome the challenges of the society. This is evident in her inability to beat the slope and reach the house. Her helplessness is evident in her failure to overcome the challenges and reach the society. She can see that her family (tree) is reaching out to help her get out of her origin (lake, meaning she could be the exact same as she was when she was young) but slightly distorted by goodness and God (light) (Atwood, p. 399-402). The state of the speaker shows the less-privileged situation of women. The diminishing image of the speaker shows the diminishing image of women in the society. The speaker’s situation shows the plight of women who are struggling to establish an identity in the society. Women of all ages have been unsuccessful in establishing their identity in the society. They are subjected to extreme rejection and suppression. The fading image of the speaker reflects this state of women.

Margaret Atwood's Progressive Insanities of a Pioneer Analysis

The man we find in ‘Progressive Insanities of a Pioneer by Margaret Atwood’ is also found to be struggling to establish his identity in an environment where he is negatively privileged. He is encountering several difficulties in establishing his identity. The stranger in the poem is attempting to separate himself from that environment instead of trying to adapt to it. As he fails to establish himself in the un-enclosed space and the unfamiliar environment around him, he is trying to build borders to seclude him from the strange environment. We find him constructing a house to set up a structure so that he can keep the nature out. The stranger is struggling to locate his real identity in the strange environment where he is put up. This attempt to maintain one’s own cultural values and societal principles in an unknown land is termed as ‘garrison exile’. When placed in strange lands individuals attempt to make a ‘garrison’ to resist assimilation and maintain their own identity. Individuals always encounter difficulties when they try to thrive in a new society or new culture. The pioneer asserts his authority in the wilderness and "(proclaims) himself the centre" in a world that has no centre to him (Atwood, p. 399-402). We find him attempting to find out where he is, so that he should develop a sense what that ‘here’ is. This is when he begins to dig lines in the soil to fight against the randomness he senses in nature. He builds a house and has fences for it. However his uncertainty and confusion never ends. His perplexity and uneasiness grows and he gets the feeling that his attempts to restrict the influence of nature are useless. He understands that it is impossible to keep the nature out. He says that "everything / is getting in" (III.12-13). He sees nature as "alive and actively hostile" which Atwood says is "a common image in Canadian literature" (54, Atwood). The rocks have "outbursts" and the forest seems to argue with him without speaking (IV.3-9). The futility of his attempt to keep himself secluded becomes clearer to him. The speakers therefore says that if the pioneer had not attempted hard to keep his garrison (and seclude himself) and simply succumbed to the nature, he would have been more successful. Trying to establish an identity of himself failed him. He encountered innumerable struggles and difficulties in his attempt to establish his identity. The man fails to understand the futility of his attempts. He did not allow the wolves inside, and now they are hunting for him, waiting outside. The pioneer is completely embarrassed by the true power of nature and gets terrified. He wonders at its universal presence.

‘This is a Photograph of Me’ and ‘Progressive insanities of a pioneer’ thus share a common theme. Both deal with the struggles associated with the establishment of an identity. ‘This is a Photograph of Me’ indirectly explains the struggle of women in their attempt to establish an identity in the society. The poem symbolically illustrates the struggle of women and their diminishing value in the society. ‘Progressive Insanities of a Pioneer’ also shows the attempt of an individual to establish his identity in the society. In the poem we find an alien who is struggling to live in a strange society. He fails in adjusting to the society and therefore tries to withdraw from everything. He is placed in a society that is less friendly to him. He encounters nothing but difficulties in his new land. He detaches himself from everything and live a secluded life. ‘This is a Photograph of Me’ and ‘Progressive insanities of a pioneer’ thus speak of the difficulties in the establishment of identity.


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      your poem summary is very helpful to my study...

    • dhannyya profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      @travel man1971..thanks for your comment. I will try to include the samples of her poems..

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 

      8 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      I hope you could include samples of her poems. You're sharing this is much appreciated. :D


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