Margaret Atwood Questions and Answers

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What is the poet's view of language and metaphor in the poem "You Begin" by Margaret Atwood?

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In Margaret Atwood's poem "You Begin," she explores the concepts of language and metaphor through the lens of teaching/learning them. The speaker of the poem seems to be talking to a young child as the child draws pictures, and it is through this child-eye-view of language that the reader is challenged to think about how words, metaphors, symbols, and reality intertwine.

Atwood's choice to frame this discussion of language learning (and teaching) through the child drawing pictures is especially significant. Before humans had language based on a written alphabet and words, we used pictures and visual representations to express our ideas. Atwood shows the way a child learning language still follows this progression to some extent, but how this overlapping of word-based language and picture-based understanding can allow for metaphor. In the line, "This is your mouth, this is an O / or a moon, whichever / you like," we see the drawn circle has the possibility of being a letter, or a...

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