This is a Photograph of Me By Margaret Atwood


Introduction:“This is a Photograph of Me” is written by a famous Canadian poet and novelist Margaret Atwood (1939- ). The  poem is open to many interpretations. The poem begins in a seemingly conventional manner. It describes a photograph which was taken a few years back and evokes a mood of nostalgia but in the middle of the poem there appears parenthesis a remark beginning with the two lines. “The photograph was taken. The day after I drowned.” The reader is shocked and confused as he cannot understand the meaning and the cohesiveness of the content of the poem. The last three lines, however make the things clear.
The meaning of the poem can be understood by dividing it in two parts – in the first twelve lines the house  is described, and in the last twelve lines the drowned speaker is presented. In the first part the picture of the house is reflected in the water. It merges with the place where the speaker was drowned in the lake. In this way the house becomes the identical double of the invisible speaker. Infact the speaker belonged to the house, loved it and even after death he is an integral part of the house. Thus, the speaker and the house become one here. This is a poem related to the theme of belonging and wakes the reader from emotional and intellectual lethargy.


Summary of the Poem
The poem gives us a description of a house through a photograph. The photograph was taken some time  back. It is not a clear photograph as there are blurred lines and grey spots on it. These lines and spots blend with the paper, making the photograph unclear but as you look at the photograph closely, then you realise that at the left hand corner there is a thing resembling a branch. This branch may be a part of the tree – balsam or spruce. Then somewhere in the middle of the right corner there is a gentle slope. It is the roof of a wooden frame-house covered with boards. In the background, there is a lake and beyond the lake there are some low hills. It seems that the photograph was taken when the house was completed. Its reflection could be seen in the lake water.

The speaker suggests that his photograph was taken just the day after he was drowned in the lake. The speaker loved the house very much.If you look at the centre of the reflection of the house in the photograph you would realise that the speaker drowned at that place. The identities of the house and the speaker are merged. The speaker loved the house. The reflection of the house is seen in the lake. The speaker drowned in the lake precisely at the same point where the centre of the house is reflected. Thus, the speaker and the house become one. The identity of the speaker is revealed in the reflection of the water in the lake. 

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Explanations


Stanza  1

It was taken some time ago…………… In the background there is a lake, and beyond that, some low hills.


Reference to the Context: These lines have been taken from the poem ” This is a Photograph of Me” written by Margaret Atwood. The speaker begins with the description of a photograph. It takes him down the memory lane. He remembers how the house was completed and how the house was reflected in the nearby lake.

Explanation: In these lines the poetess begins with the description of the photograph. She informs the reader that the photograph was taken some time back. As we look at the photograph we find it full of stains. There are unclear lines and some gray spots merged with the paper. As we closely examine the photograph we find that in the left hand corner there is a branch of a tree – it may be balsam or spruce. Then there is a gentle slope and a small wooden house. 

Stanza 2

(The photograph was taken the day after I drowned………… but if you look long enough, eventually you will be able to see me.)
Reference to the Context: These lines have been taken from the poem „This is a Photograph of Me” written by Margaret Atwood. In these lines the poetess tells us about the photograph of a house whose reflection is seen in the lake.

Explanation: The poetess has described the wooden house near the lake. Beyond the lake there are low hills. The photograph of the house was taken a day after the speaker was drowned. The speaker says that she is in the lake at a place where the centre of the reflection of the house is. In this way the poetess and the house merge into each other.

Stanza  3

It is difficult to say where  precisely ………… will be able to see me.


Reference to the Context: These lines have been taken from the poem “This is a Photograph of Me” written by Margaret Atwood. There she talks of a photograph which shows the reflection of a house in the lake. This is the lake in which the speaker has drowned.

Explanation: In these lines the speaker says that it is difficult to say how large or small he is in the picture. It is because of effect of the water on light which causes distortion. But if we look at the picture more closely the reader should be able to see him

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Comprehension Questions


Stanza 1 

It was taken some time ago ………….. In the background there is a lake, and beyond that, some low hills.

Questions

1. What is the meaning of “it’ in the poem?
Ans.The “it”  in the poem represents a photograph.

2. What does it seem in the beginning?
Ans. It seems to be a stained print on which there are blurred lines and gray plots which merge with the paper.

3. What do you see in the left hand corner?
Ans. In the left hand corner there is a branch of tree.

4. What do you find on the right side of the photograph?
Ans. On the right side of the photograph there is a gentle slope and a small frame house. 

5. Name the poem and the poet?
Ans. The name of the poem is “This is a Photograph of Me” and the name of the poet is Margaret Atwood.

Stanza 2

(The photograph was taken the day after I drowned………… but if you look long enough, eventually you will be able to see me.)

Questions

1. In whose background is the lake situated?
Ans. The lake is situated in the  background of the house.

2. When was the photograph taken?
Ans. The photograph was taken a day after the speaker was drowned.

3. Where is the speaker in the lake as he is already drowned?
Ans. The speaker is in the center of the lake. 

4. Can you guess about its size?
Ans. No, it is not possible because of the effect of the water.

5. What is the effect of water on light.
Ans.It causes a distortion.


Short-Answer Questions


Q.1. Briefly discuss the character of the speaker of the poem?
Ans. The poetess herself is the speaker of the poem. She is a sentimental and reflective woman. She has a sense of belonging and connectivity. As she looks at the photograph she is reminded of the house and it’s reflection in the water. And we find the house and the speaker merging into one identity.

Q.2.Why is the poem divided in two parts What is the connection between two parts? 
Ans. The poem is divided in two parts. The first part reflects the physical aspect while the second part deals with the speculative aspect. The speaker who is not physically visible is the connecting link between two parts. 

Q.3. The title of the poem is ” This is a Photograph of Me”, yet the poetess is not to be seen in the photograph, why?
Ans. No doubt, the poetess is not to be seen in the photograph. Yet her imprint is there everywhere. She is related to the house and has a sense of belonging. The house is being reflected in the lake. The poetess has been drowned in the lake as such she is at a place in the lake where the house is reflected. In this way the poetess is there in the photograph of the house even though she is not physically present.  

Q.4. Give a description of the photograph?
Ans. The photograph seems to be an old one. It is a smeared print. The lines are blurred and there are gray spots blending on the picture. On the left side there is a branch of a tree. On the right hand side of the center there is a gentle slope and a wooden frame house.


Essay Type Questions 


Q.1. Bring out the theme of the poem. Illustrate your answer with suitable examples from the text. 
Ans. This is a poem related to the theme of belonging. The theme becomes important in the modern world where we do not feel connected to anyone or anything. The poetess does it with the help of the photograph of a house. She was much attached to the house. The photograph is old and gray. It presents the reflection of the house in the lake. The heart of the poetess lies in the house and the house is reflected in the lake. 

At this point the poetess introduces a shocking statement in the poem she suggests where the photograph of the house was taken after she had drowned in the lake. In this way the house is in the lake in the shape of it‟s reflection and the poetess is also in the lake after having been drowned. In this way the lake becomes the connecting way between the house and the poetess.

Though the poetess is not physically present in the photograph of the house, she pervades the photograph in a metaphorical sense. Thus the poem brings out the theme of the relatedness and belongingness in an effective manner.


Objective Type Questions 



Q.1.When was the photograph taken?
Ans. It was taken the day after the poetess was drowned.

Q.2. How does the photograph look?
Ans. It looks smeared and blurred.   

Q.3. What do you find at the left hand corner?
Ans. We find a branch of a tree at the left hand corner.

Q.4.What do you find at the right hand corner of the photograph?
Ans. We find a wooden frame house at the right hand corner of the photograph.

Q.5. What is in the background?
Ans. In the background there is a lake and low-hills.

Q.6.How is the speaker in the lake?
Ans.The speaker has been drowned in the lake. The reflection of the house is in the lake and she loved the house. 

Q.7.How large or small is the house in the reflection? 
Ans. It is difficult to say as the movement of the waves destored the reflection.

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