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Margaret Atwood's You Begin

Decent Essays
Margaret Atwood’s poem “You Begin” has varying interpretations of who the narrator is. The poem is a narrative of someone speaking to a child. Whether the speaker is a parent, a grandparent, or Margaret Atwood herself is unknown. The interpretation of the poem is slightly altered depending on who the narrator actually is. Depending on who is narrating, the child is learning different things about the world. The poem attempts to explain the complexity of the world by seeing it through a narration of the progression of learning and life as the child draws a picture. Atwood uses a stylistic pattern of simplicity and complexity, repetition, and the senses to achieve her goal through the various potential narrators of the poem.
The poems style
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Atwood brings this out in the poem through color associations with objects. She writes “That is a fish, blue and flat / on the paper, almost / the shape of an eye.” (Lines 4-6) By explaining the color of the item as well as the shape she is emphasizing the visual the same way a child would see it. She continues this trend in stanza two when she explains the whole world, writing “and then the world, / which is round and has only / the colors of these nine crayons.” (Lines 13-16) Atwood is able to describe an extremely complex world in the very basic terms of colors and crayons so that the child can begin to understand. Later in the poem, when the poem is in the “old age” stage of the narration, Atwood explores the world once again in terms of color; this time however, the poem shows experience and knowledge of the individual, as well as the complexity of the world. It is no longer nine crayon colors, it is “more colors / than we can see.” (Lines 31-32) This shows a development in the “you” that the poem is addressing. The “you” is no longer being talked to as a child; it is being spoken to as if they had had the chance to experience the…show more content…
She achieves this through the repetition of sense words, the simple and complex pattern of her stanzas, and the wrap around effect from the beginning of the poem to the end in which the imagery of a circle is complete. The undefined voice of the narrator aids in the various ways the progression of learning and the world can be interpreted. When the poem is a narration of a family member, whether the parent or grandparent, there is a sense of pride along with an incorporation of imagination and experience into the learning. If the narrator is the poet Margaret Atwood herself, then the poem becomes a structured teaching experience for the child and loses some of its strong imagination filled imagery. The poem “You Begin” has very many meanings and interpretations; however, the cycle of life and the progression of learning remain the
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