"This Is a Photograph of Me", by Margaret Atwood

Essay by rjamesCollege, UndergraduateA, November 2002

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Picture of Death

In the poem "This Is a Photograph of Me", Margaret Atwood attempts to depict the parallels between a picture slowly developing and the narrators realization of her death. This poem is divided into two parts with the second half separated by brackets. The elements of the picture begin to emerge reflecting the narrator's awareness of her death.

In the first stanza it is as if the speaker is trying to remember fuzzy memories of her past and maybe as far back as her youth. This half is very lyrical, with repetition of similar sounds lulling the reader into false sense of peace. The poem begins with a "smeared print..." (1047) of a photograph. The photograph is described as grey; blurred and blended, therefore at this point the picture is fairly undeveloped. She is very unsure where she is destined to go. As the narrator surfaces more and more she begins to describe things in greater detail.

For example, "you see in the left-hand corner a thing is like a branch: part of a tree (balsam or spruce) emerging."(1047) This signifies that not only the picture is becoming clearer, but also her self-awareness is becoming clearer. She is becoming to understand between life and death. We see the narrator has been dead for quite awhile when she writes "what ought to be a gentle slope, a small frame house."(1048) This shows that it has taken her quite some time to start coming into focus with her existence, as she did not believe the house "ought"(1048) to be there, therefore, the house was built after she died. The first half of the poem describes the physical and natural elements in the picture. For example, "there is a lake, and beyond that, some low hills."(1048) Atwood is attempting to emphasize...