Monday, November 07, 2005

A Sad Child by Margaret Atwood

A Sad Child by Margaret Atwood

You're sad because you're sad.
It's psychic. It's the age. It's chemical.
Go see a shrink or take a pill,
or hug your sadness like an eyeless doll
you need to sleep.

Well, all children are sad
but some get over it.
Count your blessings. Better than that,
buy a hat. Buy a coat or pet.
Take up dancing to forget.

Forget what?
Your sadness, your shadow,
whatever it was that was done to you
the day of the lawn party
when you came inside flushed with the sun,
your mouth sulky with sugar,
in your new dress with the ribbon
and the ice-cream smear,
and said to yourself in the bathroom,
I am not the favorite child.

My darling, when it comes
right down to it
and the light fails and the fog rolls in
and you're trapped in your overturned body
under a blanket or burning car,

and the red flame is seeping out of you
and igniting the tarmac beside you head
or else the floor, or else the pillow,
none of us is;
or else we all are.

This poem seems a bit insensitive to me. The author is basically telling a child to get over herself, and that everyone has problems, and encounters sadness at one point or another. She suggests that the kid do something to take her mind off whatever it was that happened by buying something new like clothes or a pet. The message the author is trying to convey is understandable, but the delivery is a bit off. She reminds the child that she should count her blessings and that we have much to be thankful for, but I doubt this would prove successful in cheering up the sad child. Also, in the last stanza, the author makes a reference to death, and that when the end does come, what happened to make the child sad won't matter so she might as well get over it now. The way the speaker is addressing the child is pretty unskillful though. This seems like a case of tough love, but the speaker seems scarred herself, and hardened from the incident. Perhaps, the speaker and the sad child are the same person.


Blogger Niel said...

I agree that this poem is insensitve. It suggests buying material things to get over temporary sadness which obviously does not work. I also think the poem is quite blunt- "see a shrink or take a pill." The poem has a strange internal conflict that is difficult to grasp.

1:02 PM  

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