The concept of change is inseparable from the one of living. The very essence of existence presupposes an unceasing flow from one stage to another, although not necessarily involving a physical transfer. Though “This Is a Picture of Me” by Margaret Atwood and “Heat” by Archibald Lampman differ from each other considerably in terms of their style, imagery, characters, and other essential details, they are connected with the theme that underlies each of the poems, i.e., the necessity for change as a part and parcel of life and a journey towards the “end of the road,” though Atwood’s poem addresses the theme in a more subtle way, whereas Lampman’s message is too on the nose.
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The point of view, though admittedly different in Atwood’s and Lampman’s poems, is used to support the theme by both poets. Atwood narrates the story from the perspective of the first and the second person: “if you look long enough, eventually you will be able to see me” (Atwood lines 24–26). Lampman, instead, tells a traditional first-person story: “The grasshoppers spin into mine ear” (Lampman line 35).
Both authors also use imagery quite efficiently in their poems. Atwood includes the image of a mirror in “This is a Picture of Me,” thus, adding the idea of duality to the theme of change; Lampman, on the other hand, introduces his audience to the concept of change through creating a continuous yet linear narration conveyed with the help of specific imagery. The road and the cart that moves along it can be viewed as a metaphor for a consistent alteration. Thus, both poems use rather different imagery in order to set the same theme in their poems.
Despite the striking difference between the imagery used in both poems, each of the images is shot through with the idea of movement and, therefore, change. Lampman’s representation of the phenomenon is rather obvious, with the concept of motion being related to a wagon moving along a deserted road. While seemingly simplistic, this image, however, represents a rather complex metaphor of life (the road) and the way in which people handle its complexities (the cart and its passenger).
Atwood’s imagery, on the contrary, is rather static, the process of change being represented by differences in the past reflection of the lead character and the current image of the latter. It is rather peculiar that the two poems represent two different dimensions of change, i.e., the temporal (Atwood) and the spatial (Lampman). Nevertheless, both images manage to get the message across in a rather subtle way.
The point of view, in its turn, also plays an essential part in creating the required mood for each of the poems and allows the authors to get their point across. While Atwood uses the first and the second person in order to create an impression of a dialogue and, therefore, tricks the reader into participating in the conversation, Lampman deliberately narrates his poem solely from the first person so that the audience could immerse into the environment described by the author and, therefore, perceive it as more believable.
At this point, it might seem that the goals pursued by the authors are as far on the opposite sides of the spectrum as they can be, Lampman trying to create a realistic environment and Atwood attempting at conveying her message with the help of creative surrealism. However, a closer look will reveal that, despite the obvious difference in the tools used by the poets, the key theme of change as a necessary element of life, which one must accept and reconcile with, is still persistent in each poem. Both authors render the concept of altering one’s life, and both do so in a very convincing manner. Atwood focuses on the temporal aspect of the phenomenon, tapping on the concept of death at the same time: “It was taken some time ago.
At first it seems to be a smeared print” (Atwood lines 1–4); Lampman, in his turn, addresses the idea of change in life and death as its ultimate closure in a more subtle way, therefore, leaving more room for the description of the change process: “I lean at rest, and drain the heat” (Lampman line 44). It is quite peculiar that, unlike Lampman, Atwood, in fact, never names the process of transgression in her poem – she only hints at it by offering the reader to compare the past and the present: “The photograph was taken/the day after I drowned./I am in the lake, in the center/of the picture, just under the surface” (Atwood lines 15–18).
Though Atwood and Lampman resort to different methods of conveying their message, the themes of “This is a Photograph of Me” and “Heat” cross at a number of points, the key ones being change as an integral part of life and death as its final refuge. Atwood creates a unique dialogue, connecting the past and the present into a single entity and, therefore, representing a specific continuity in her poem, whereas Lampman allows the reader to submerge into a traditional linear narration with an obvious metaphor intertwining the concepts of time and space. While the approaches chosen by the authors, as well as the stylistics of the poems and the imagery that Lampman and Atwood created, are miles away from each other, the central theme that both poems render links them closely.
Atwood, Margaret. “This Is a Photograph of Me.” Poets.org. 1939. Web.
Lampman, Archibald. “Heat.” Poem Hunter. 1888. Web.