What Does the Poem 'This Is a Photograph of Me' Mean?

To get at the heart of Margaret Atwood's poem "This Is a Photograph of Me," it is helpful to consider Atwood's previous work. Her novel "The Handmaid's Tale," for example, explores the theme of women's subjugation. In this light, a reading of "This Is a Photograph of Me" clearly shows this theme rearing its head once again in this feminist author's work.

Invisible women

This poem's imagery points to Atwood's perception of women as occupying a role in society that is not always clear, and that is frequently relegated to the background. When reading the poem, it is helpful to consider the oppression of women in society and how that might be indirectly expressed. The distortion of the images in the poem reinforces this idea. For example, she writes, "It is difficult to say where precisely, or to say how large or small I am: the effect of water on light is a distortion." People often view women through a distorted lens of societal expectations and conditioning, a circumstance that leads to women feeling misunderstood or even invisible -- their opinions and life forces drowned, as it were, invisible under water.