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Against Still Life

Against Still Life In the poem Against Still Life, poet Margaret Atwood fascinates us by weaving her words into descriptive feelings we can all relate too, especially women. Atwood is a well known poet and novelist who has a certain way of grabbing the attention of the reader and throwing the readers thoughts around without her even realizing it. In Against Still Life for example, Atwood opens her poem with an orange, nothing more than an orange. By the end of the poem she has got the reader pondering what men think about. It is assumed that Atwood is the speaker of the poem and the setting is simply a situation most of us can find ourselves in often. The speaker of the poem is Margaret Atwood herself.

She describes thoughts that would only belong to her. Atwood uses the word “I” to describe herself in the poem and “you” to describe a second party other than the reader, who we later find to be a man. The poem, seems as though it is directed as a thought to the man, not a conversation or a poem for him to read, but Atwoods desire to know this mans thoughts. Atwood is clever, and describes feelings and the frustrations that any woman has felt about a man. This makes us really wonder if Atwood truly feels this way, or if she is just describing feelings that a general woman have about a general man. I believe Atwood did this on purpose not only to more easily relate to the reader but because she once said in a lecture, “Plato said that poets should be excluded from the ideal republic because they are such liars.

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I am a poet, and I affirm that this is true. About no subject are poets tempted to lie so much as about their own lives.. I of course — being also a novelist — am a much more truthful person than that. But since poets lie, how can you believe me?” (Atwood). This suggests that maybe Atwood doesnt really feel this way about a man, she could have made the whole thing up simply to please and relate to her readers, but then again, she could be telling the truth. Atwoods attitude in the poem is very demanding and unknowing.

She is a woman who wants answers about a man. She is having a hard time understanding this man and wants to know whats going on inside his head. This happens to describe Atwood perfectly because she once said her husband (who is also a writer) was “[b]etter than a dentist. At least another writer knows why you are being so strange. And you can take long vacations” (Author Profile).

In the poem, Atwood compares an orange to the man. It is said that Atwood often writes of food in her publications because she feels as though women have come to feel uncomfortable with themselves and food. “Atwood probes the prohibitions on the public display of female appetite and the social taboos which surround women and food in terms of the politics of eating” (Parker). I believe Atwood does this to make herself and the reader feel more comfortable with the frustrations she describes. She can only see the outside of the orange in the same way that she can only see the outside of the man.

But she wants more than that, “I want to pick it up in my hand I want to peel the skin off; I want more to be said to me than just Orange: want to be told everything it has to say” (Muller 255). She wants to know all she can about the man, and it is driving her crazy not knowing whats really going on inside that head of his. There is a constant battle in our world; men want to know how women really work and think, and women want to know what men really work and think. Atwood even mentions that she knows the man is thinking the same thing she is, and she wants to make him say it out load. “[M]ake me want to wrench you into saying: now Id crack your skull like a walnut, split it like a pumpkin to make you talk, or get a look inside” (Muller 256). She knows that this man has the same thoughts about her.

She knows that he has this overwhelming desire to understand her by knowing everything and anything about her. It frustrates her even more that he doesnt and wont tell her that he has these feelings. Atwood wants to be able to relate her feelings to his feelings any way she can, and she feels as though his orange silence will not let her. Atwood paints the scene beautifully. A man and a women, sitting across from one another at a table and in the center of the table, an orange, “Orange, in the middle of the table..

[a]nd you, sitting across the table, at a distance with your smile contained, and like the orange in the sun; silent..” {Quote}. This could be taking place somewhere as simple as Atwoods personal kitchen or maybe in a park at a picnic bench. The woman is sitting there with orange and man in perfect line of view. She first stares at the orange. Her eyes move from the orange to the man and she notices how alike they are because she has no idea whats going on in the inside of either one.

The situation then becomes uncomfortable for Atwood as she realizes she is sitting across from someone who is as quiet and awkwardly easily compared to an orange. She wants to know everything about the man including past, present and future. It is not enough that he is just smiling, sitting across from her. As she continues to describe her intense feelings on how she wants to know whats inside the man, she mentions a thing of great importance. Instead of the poem being an actual scene, it could really be taking place anywhere.

Maybe she is describing an on-going thought, in which she feels the same wonderment whenever she is sitting across from this man. So, she says, “and you, man, orange afternoon lover, wherever you sit across from me (tables, trains, buses) if I watch quietly enough and long enough.” It seems as though Atwood realizes that she may never really ever know what the man is thinking, and she will probably always have the same thoughts when sitting across from the man, wherever they are. The reader can now identify with this situation. Atwood weaves words together so that it could be any woman or man, any where, any place, sitting across from a person of the opposite sex wanting to know what the other is all about. Atwood discovers that through each conversation she would find, “there are mountains inside your skull garden and chaos, ocean and hurricane; certain corners of rooms, portraits of great-grandmothers, curtains of a particular shade; your deserts; our private dinosaurs; the first woman”(Muller 256).

These sorts of answers could only be explained and interpreted through several conversations through life. And even then, the answers given to Atwoods questions might not be understood and she would be left off right where she left off, with no true understanding at all. But she doesnt care, she wants to know everything from the beginning.

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