This Is a Photograph of Me by Margaret Atwood: Summary and Critical Analysis

The speaker is passively exposed to the photograph in Atwood's poem This Is a Photograph of Me. Thematically, the title is in passive, the first sentence is in passive voice. This is a photo others have taken of me. This is a history of me which others have created. The others are males who are active to make history of females.

Margaret Atwood (Born in 1939)

When other makes history of female then there comes the problem of precision and accuracy. In patriarchy, males are creating women’s stories. The photograph was taken some time ago. She has not specified the time. The photograph is not clear, lines are blurred, and the light of the photograph has become dim. Photograph stands for her history which is not clear; light stands for the creativity of the woman. If a woman does some important work in the society, that is shadowed. Patriarchy ignores the contribution of female. In the left hand corner, there are branches of tree.

These branches of tree have emerged to right hand side. On the right hand side there is a frame house. This can be seen if you see the photograph minutely. Here the right hand side (frame House) stands for male and left hand side (branches) stands for female. In the patriarchy, a woman is treated as left hand and man is treated as right hand. Woman is placed on the left hand with simply associated with branches which have no roots and man is placed on the right hand side. Left hand is normally weaker than right hand. Females are supposed to be weaker than male. By giving her left position she has been shown as passive.

Lake stands for the society of the photograph. Beyond the society, there are low hills. Hills and lakes keep the woman in shadow. Hills and lakes are the causes that distort her history. Margaret is trying to show the small frame houses are not responsible for the exploitations of women. As a whole background society or the lake/ hills are responsible behind what happens to women. The speaker is not taken out of the lake. She is dipped and left in the lake. She could not get her identity. As per Christian culture one is dipped and taken out to name but here in her case it does not happen. Here she is showing identity crisis. She is left in the lake she can’t come out of lake that society is to revolt.

She is center for domestic work and she is marginal for social, political and economic work. In patriarchy, women are taken forward in domestic roles but in the social roles male come ahead. In the final stanza there is a shift in tone. If you look carefully, you will be able to see me. Photograph is dim, its true but I am there. They have dimmed my photograph, undermined my work but my presence is there. Patriarchy cannot negate me completely. The last line is revolutionary. Despite all the discrimination I am there. They can destroy my photograph but cannot destroy my existence. Time is not clear it means that when the domination started it was not clear. Woman has been exploited since time immemorial. Therefore the speaker does not like to historicize the time.

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Sharma, Kedar N. "This Is a Photograph of Me by Margaret Atwood: Summary and Critical Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 19 Oct. 2013,

Related Topic

Biography of Margaret Atwood