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Use Of Photographs In This Is A Photograph Of Me And Photograph, 1958

1274 words - 6 pages

Use of Photographs in This Is a Photograph of Me and Photograph, 1958         

At first glance, "This Is a Photograph of Me" by Margaret Atwood and "Photograph, 1958" by Patricia Young are strikingly similar works in that both poems utilize the imagery of a photograph as a communication device however, upon closer examination  they differ markedly in the approach each poet takes in utilizing this same device.  The similarities between these two poems are immediately obvious to the reader; both poems are written by female poets,  both poems have the poet as the speaker,  both poems describe how the poet feels about herself, and both poems utilize the photograph as a device to convey ...view middle of the document...

  This can be seen clearly on the following lines: "I am in the lake, in the center / of the picture, just under the surface."   The atmosphere created is one of introspection and self examination: "but if you look long enough, / eventually / you will be able to see me."  Atwood is using the device of the photograph to draw the reader from the outside world inwards to her world in the center of the photograph.

         Although the title of the poem "This Is a Photograph of Me" implies that the poet appears in the photograph, this is not exactly the case.  The poet states "I am in the lake, in the center / of the picture, just under the surface."  The scene depicted in the photograph is a "blurred" landscape devoid of people.  This would appear to indicate a lack of relationships in the poet's life.  The lack of people in the photograph and in the poem conveys a feeling of being alone, depressed and isolated.

         In the poem "Photograph, 1958" by Patricia Young the photograph is used by the poet as a device to indirectly communicate her message to the reader.  In this poem,  the poet is looking at a photograph of herself as a child and reflecting upon her relationship with her father.  Young describes the scene depicted in the photograph as "My father and I play checkers / in profile."  She then observes, "He concentrates on the board,  /  I am watching him."   This wording suggests that her father needs watching.  We then catch a first glimpse of the contrasting imagery that dominates this poem in the lines "who / is winning? / I no longer know / the rules or object of the game."  She no longer knows what the proper boundaries between a father and daughter are like, because he has violated her trust, perhaps even sexually.  This suggests that her future relationships with men will be adversely affected by this confusion over what "the rules or object of the game"  should be.  She will not know what a good relationship is and what the limits should be.  This image of an innocent child playing a simple game of checkers in a photograph contrasts starkly with the unequal and complex power struggle between parent and child associated with child abuse.  Young is using the simplicity of the scene depicted in the photograph to contrast with the complexity of the poet's abusive relationship with her father.

         Unlike Atwood, Young not only describes the details of the photograph, but she also takes us beyond it.   After describing the game of checkers, Patricia Young goes on to ponder what is beyond the photograph: "Beyond the barely / furnished room I guess snow: / banked against the front / and back doors."  The barely furnished room is a metaphor for the emptiness she feels in her life and her relationships.  This suggests...

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