what does the poet mean when he says 'I resemble everyone but myself'?the poem is as follows: i resemble everyone/ but myself, and sometimes see/ in shop-windows, despite the well known laws/ of...

what does the poet mean when he says 'I resemble everyone but myself'?

the poem is as follows:

i resemble everyone/ but myself, and sometimes see/ in shop-windows, despite the well known laws/ of optics/ the portrait of a stranger,/ date unknown/ often signed in the corner / by my father.

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In his poem "Self-Portrait," Ramanujan is speaking to a feeling that many people have. Obviously, something has happened in his life to make him feel that his identity is lost. The line, "I resemble everyone but myself," is followed by him stating that, when looking at his reflection, he sees a stranger.

What this can be interpreted to mean is that the narrator (assumed to be Ramanujan based upon the fact he wrote the poem) has been alienated by his father and, with that, has lost himself. For some men, the relationship with their father allows them to identify with who they are. They look for characteristics in their fathers so as to define their own being. Without his father, the narrator is unable to compare and define himself.

Another way to look at the line is to interpret it as the narrator lacking his own identity. Instead of being and individual, the narrator is the person everyone else sees him to be. Given his Indian background (born in Mysore, India), some people could come to judge him based upon his exterior--basically, stereotyping. When people are stereotyped, they are identified by how the world sees them, not based upon who they really are. Therefore, he would "resemble" what people came to assume he was.

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