Treasure Island

Margaret Atwood

(18 November 1939 / Ottawa, Ontario)

A Sad Child


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.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • * Sunprincess * (6/6/2014 5:00:00 PM)

    .........the poetess must be saying.....to fully live our lives, we all need sadness so we can appreciate the happiness.... (Report) Reply

  • Mehta Hasmukh Amathalal (7/23/2010 7:50:00 PM)

    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.failure is overcome by constant efforts.. nicely worded poem....10 (Report) Reply

  • Maria Gonzalez (7/18/2009 4:20:00 AM)

    The poem is about failure and how to face it. In this society we all have to be great, happy...but life is also sadness, and a person (a child in the poem) could feel a failure as a terrible moment (represented by the flames, etc) ...so I believe the poet is showing us that we have to move on. We should feel sadness as part of our life and never see it as a tragedy. (Report) Reply

  • L Watson (2/7/2009 4:17:00 PM)

    I think this poem is also an analysis of our society and human interaction. Think of mental illness when she says the get over yourself comment. It is about how we actually don't understand, nor know how to deal with the problems or challenges of others (big or small) and so we try to buy these people off. make them feel good with materialism, or simply try to shut them up. (Report) Reply

  • Deo Giga (2/19/2008 4:27:00 AM)

    I agree that it is a reflection on death and how equalizing it is. I also think that it has theological implications too. How many times have we asked that we are not the favorite child because we feel the universe (or God) has singled us out for punishment? We who are kind, or try to be kind, and good and self-effacing? While others (the wicked, more often than not) are rewarded? But, to paraphrase, 'God lets the rain pour and the sun shine on both the wicked and the good.' Nobody is the favorite; otherwise, we all are 'favorites.' (Report) Reply

  • Lester Tan (10/17/2007 7:14:00 AM)

    Hmm, I see it as a meditation on death itself, how it is an equalizing force and it pays no favors to anyone. Hence, Atwood seems to be offering a somewhat disquieting source of comfort to an otherwise unfair world ruled by favoritism and sadness. I mean that's what i think the theme of the poem is although it's quite easy to be carried away by the first few stanzas and to be deceived into thinking that it's merely about how children are so neglected and unwanted nowadays.

    I love the poem although i do find it quite fatalistic (Report) Reply

  • Charley P (6/14/2007 2:28:00 PM)

    I think that in the last two stanzas she is saying that even though this kid is sad because she feels like she is not the favourite, when the end of our lives come and we die (whether in a car accident or safe in bed, hence the burning car/blanket) then everyone's more or less the same anyway - either none of us is the favourite, or we all are. (Report) Reply

  • Lisa Simpson (5/30/2007 5:53:00 PM)

    What do you think the 2nd last, and last stanza is about? Why does the poem change all of a sudden? ? and does anybody know the theme of this poem? It's so simple tht it's actually hard. lol (Report) Reply

  • Brian Dorn (7/26/2006 12:13:00 PM)

    We all (children and adults) desire attention. I think that's why many of us write poetry... (Report) Reply

  • Uriah Hamilton (11/2/2005 8:39:00 AM)

    Humans suffer psychic wounds that never heal, who can measure this pain? Margaret Atwood is an amazing poet but I hope she doesn't underestimate the spiritual darkness every human encounters. (Report) Reply

  • angela mattew (2/10/2005 8:32:00 PM)

    i am doing a research on maragret atwood and i would like to konw the year she wrote the A sad child' and if someone can analyze the poem for as early as possible please. what the theme, rythem, methphor please (Report) Reply

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