A psychoanalytical study of the poems of Margaret Atwood.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A quick survey of some of Atwood's poetry reveals that they are rich and fecund texts and particularly suitable to a psychoanalytical approach. This is because so many of Atwood's poems develop the theme of a search for identity and how we can change ourselves. In "This is a Photograph of Me," for example, the photograph that is presented to us has an image that is at best obscure and one where the speaker is above some kind of watery location. This reflects the way in which the speaker does not feel fully formed yet or that she is developing and in flux. Note how she points out her location:

I am in the lake, in the centre

of the picture, just under the surface.

We, like the speaker, wonder what her form will appear like when she rises out from the lake and is fully formed.

What is more fascinating alongside such poems of uncertain identity is the way that in some of her poems Atwood seems to deliberately question her abilities and status as a poet. In "The Messenger," for example, the "random face / revolving outside the window" vanishes into nothing because the intended recipient is the wrong one and is unable to hear the "desperate messages" that the messenger brings.

Such poems help us to understand some of the deep, abiding concerns in Atwood's poetry as she struggles to define an ever-changing identity that is related to Canada and its relationship with its European settlers and also her own identity as a poet.


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