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What are the major themes of the poem "Morning in the Burned House" by Margaret Atwood?

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shafiwazir | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 15, 2009 at 5:23 AM via web

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What are the major themes of the poem "Morning in the Burned House" by Margaret Atwood?

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted December 15, 2009 at 6:41 AM (Answer #1)

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In Margaret Atwood's poem "Morning in the Burned House," the major theme is are grief.  She states that "there is no house nor breakfast."  She goes on to explain that nothing she is talking about exists now.  Everything has been damaged by fire and smoke.

The narrator is sharing memories of the house during better times.  One initially does not realize that she was in the fire as well.  It appears that the damage was only done to the house.  Everything else in the narrator's life seems okay.  However, she begins to tell

"The day is bright but songless." 

The reader becomes aware that she is sad.  Songless symbolizes lack of joy.  The fire has taken everyhting with it.  Nothing is the way that it once was.  The reader discovers that she had caught fire and her body was burned until it is no longer the body she once recognized.  Hwever, she finds some solice in thinking back on previous good times in the middle of her grief.

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mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 15, 2009 at 6:56 AM (Answer #2)

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In this poem, Margaret Atwood seems to be relating the experience of going back to visit an old childhood home that had burned down.  As she sits there, she is brought back to when she and her family used to live there, and it is a happy and haunting experience for her.  She almost feels like she has gone back in time, and can feel what it was to be small again, running around in that house.  She also describes the sun and the clouds that she can see through the burned roof.

The themes of the poem are that of longing for the past, happiness in memories, the power of memories, and the power of places.  Atwood, as she sits there, is reminded so much of her past that she feels like she is actually there again.  She feels young and happy and careless--"incandescent" as she puts it.  This indicates a longing for the past, but at the same time, she says that she is "alone and happy," so she also gets happiness from her memories.  The place that she visits has the power to bring back all of these feelings and thoughts; we can relate to this feeling.  Anytime I visit old childhood homes or cities many memories are brought back.

I hope that those thoughts helped a bit; good luck!

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted December 15, 2009 at 6:59 PM (Answer #3)

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Another,very unpleasant, way of reading and interpreting the poem 'Morning In The Burned House' by Margaret Attwood would be to see her,the narrrator, as the ghost of the child who died in the fire. Some readers may identify with the last two lines of the poem where she refers to the body that was once hers no longer being inside the clothes,but cindered into nothingness. There could be  themes of guilt, culpability and regret that may leap out at some readers - every reader is different, some will be parnets, some will be kids. Try asking some questions:

Did the parents leave the child alone to eat breakfast to go walk on the beach?

Why the attention to the stove - did something catch alight while they were out?

What about the oilcloth and the glass? Did they catch on fire,or did an unattended child tip them over?

Remember the constant emphasis on no-one else being around - what do you think happened?

So the themes could be haunting and death - compare with 'Death By Landscape:'

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mohammadzai | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted June 11, 2012 at 9:40 AM (Answer #4)

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Nice questions... em gonna sit in examination after 2 hours will give the answer after that...

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