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Analysis of " A SAD CHILD" by Margaret Atwood

Updated: Jan 17


Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood

A sad child

By margarat 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 your head

or else the floor, or else the pillow,

none of us is;

or else we all are.



A Sad Child" by Margaret Atwood is a poignant and introspective poem that delves into the theme of sadness and the universal human experience of it. The poem explores the idea that sadness is an intrinsic part of life, and children, too, can experience this emotion.

The poem starts by acknowledging the sadness of the child, suggesting that it might be due to various reasons – be it psychological, age-related, or even chemical imbalances. The speaker advises seeking professional help or trying to suppress the sadness, comparing it to hugging an eyeless doll that one needs to put to sleep.

Atwood then contrasts the sadness of the child with a broader perspective, noting that all children feel sad at times, but some eventually overcome it. The speaker encourages the child to count their blessings or distract themselves with material possessions, like buying a hat, coat, or pet, or taking up dancing as a means to forget their sadness.

As the poem unfolds, it addresses a specific memory from the child's past, referred to as "the day of the lawn party." This event seems to have left a deep impact on the child, triggering feelings of not being the favorite. The imagery of the flushed face and sulky mouth reflects the child's emotional turmoil.

The poem then takes a darker turn, shifting to a scene of despair and suffering. The speaker envisions a moment when the child is trapped in a dire and life-threatening situation, comparing it to being under a burning car or blanket. In this moment of extreme vulnerability, the poem suggests that none of us is immune to suffering – we all experience vulnerability and pain in different forms, emphasizing our shared humanity.

Overall, "A Sad Child" by Margaret Atwood explores the complexities of sadness, the lasting impact of childhood experiences, and the universality of human vulnerability. It reminds us that while we all may experience sadness at some point, we are also interconnected by our shared struggles and experiences

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