Atwood'S Journey To The Interior

Title: Journey to the Interior – Margaret Atwood #

I. Sound Effects #

Read the poem aloud. Comment on the Sound Effects, verbal music. It’s rhyme. Rhythm and melody. Assonance, alliteration. onomatopoeia. etc. (Blending repetition patterns. slow/fast movement, harsh, discordant, sibilance, sotto, allegro, Rhapsodic, lyrical, elegiac, upbeat, blue, staccato, dirge, ode, Melody. tone. mood. atmosphere. voice.

This is a subtle, many layered poem with nuances that may be contradictory and therefore wide open to multiple interpretations. The dream like (surreal) mood is created by a pensive, reflective musing tone, at times morbid or melancholic. Written in post-modern style with multiple allusions and disparate images, it communicates in lateral thinking rather than logical sequential processes. The free verse with few euphonic or melodious words evokes sombre responses. The intimate conversational voice of the persona seductively engages the responder inclusively with involvement and identification .

II Subject Matter #

The poet (persona) is embarking on an imaginary or inner journey and compares it to that of an explorer broaching new undiscovered, unchartered and unmapped territory. (A Heart of Darkness) It is the inner mind, minus its public face or mask interiorising, re-evaluating, analysing the purpose and direction of life

While the similarities of a voyage of discovery are more tangible and concrete, the differences suggest intangible or metaphysical aspects of the interior life.

III Themes #

The inner life is complex and if delved into too deeply can be confronting, demoralising and depressing, leading to madness, even self harm.

Life can be absurd, meaningless, directionless, even futile.

Sensory perceptions and rational thought processes are not always reliable to gain true self-insight rather a holistic emotional and lateral thinking are needed.

Language can be inadequate or an obstacle to express the depth of our feelings.


Structure: linear, circular, episodic, flash backs, climatic. Images: (visual, auditory, o1factory, tactile, ,gustatory) figures of speech: similes, metaphors, personification, analogy, synecdoche, contrast, antithesis, unity, irony, Allusions, etc

Clearly two stanzas, one of similarities juxtaposed with the differences between a physical Journey and an introspective one. There is an element of Déjà vu* in the “a fallen log I’m sure I passed yesterday”.

Images : Hills - deceptive - an optical illusion – mirage?

Swamps, poor country - suggestion of a deprived upbringing?

Cliff – deceptively smooth from a distance.

Squares (of maps) circles – globes – “walking in circles”

Tangle of branches, brambles, sodden log, - all nuisance – impediments

Light and dark - bi-polar experiences of life.

Maps, charts, compasses - No reliable answers in dogma or formulae

Shoe among brambles under chair – careless or neglect?

Lucent white mushrooms - trance- hallucinatory?

Paring knife - dual function of: sustenance or death – affirmation or denial of life.

Sentence crossing my path – futility of language no communication.

Sun – archetype of law, reason regularity. Not in modern absurd world.


Approach: Subjective/Objective, Attitude or Tone, Audience, Style: diction, word play, puns, connotative/denotative, emotive (coloured biased,) /demotive, (technical, dispassionate) clichés, proverbial, idiomatic, expressive, flat, Jargon, euphemisms, pejorative, oxymoron. Gender biases. Register: formal, stiff, dignified or Colloquial; relaxed, conversational, inclusive, friendly or Slang; colourful, intimate, Rhetorical devices; Questions, exclamations, cumulation, crescendo, inversion, bathos, repetition, 3 cornered phrases.

As the subject is ruminative, the approach is intensely subjective, private, personal and intimate as indicated by the language, especially first and second person pronouns.

The possessive, “your shoe” is inclusive and universal seducing us to identify and accept the situation as similar to our own.

The informal register, colloquial language and lack of proverbs, axioms or rhetoric combine to create a relaxed appealing introspective mood.

The major repetition the demonstrative adjective, “that” (six times) which not only identifies but distinguishes.