Margaret Atwood’s poem, Habitation, talks about the challenges of marriage. The poem is basically stating that the idea of marriage is still almost primitive; something humans cannot quite understand and need to work at. It is not natural to humans. Atwood is also saying that marriage is work, and needs to be built from the ground up. Furthermore, Habitation describes the core of a marriage. Atwood is saying that marriage is based only on love, not physical trappings. The idea of a home and white picket fence is not what binds a couple for a lifetime.
Atwood uses many analytical shapes in Habitation. Firstly, the way the poem is written is almost backwards. It starts speaking of a home, and then moves to the edge of a desert, to glaciers, to making fire. I think this further illustrates the idea that a marriage is written from the ground up. On a page, the last line of the poem about making fire is the most primitive idea, and it moves all the way up to “A marriage/is not a house or even a tent” (line 1-2). This aesthetic device shows the reader that marriage takes a long time and needs to have a solid foundation to grow on. The innovation of fire has been the basis of so much growth and progress in society today. In the poem, building fire represents the idea that relationships need to be built off of something strong that can sustain a couple, like love. Fire represents passion, which is needed to fuel a relationship and keep a couple strong through marriage.
Another aesthetic device Atwood uses in Habitation is repetition of the word edge. She uses the word three times, first the edge of a forest, then the edge of a desert, and finally the edge of a receding glacier. The three different places could be where a relationship is headed. I think Atwood is stating that couples may not know what they are getting themselves into when they agree to marry. At the edge of a desert, couples could be heading into a life-threatening situation, and Atwood is saying that the basis marriage is very difficult to keep alive. The edge of a receding glacier could mean that couples might feel like they are trapped with no where to go but down, and will drown themselves trying so hard to make a relationship work. Also, the repetition of the word edge may mean that happiness in a marriage is always on the edge; arguments are constantly on the verge and can happen over the most miniscule problems.
The last analytical shape Atwood uses is the way she breaks up the poem. The first section basically introduces where the poem is heading. Each section is broken up by idea. The last section is just one line, “we are learning to make fire” which stands alone because the only thing that will really create a strong marriage is passion and love, symbolized by fire. Atwood’s poem uses many aesthetic devices and shows that marriage needs to be built from the ground up, the basis being love.