Margaret Atwood wrote a beautiful yet sad chronology. The poet spoke of the progression in which a human grows through the transition of childhood to adulthood. Through this transition, time plays a large part in this poem. The poet is clearly not unchanged. This is evident through her transition of adjectives from the beginning to finish of the poem. For example, as a child, she describes herself as 'invulnerable' and like a 'helmet'. Yet, as an adult, she uses descriptive words such as 'unshelled' and 'like a horse with a broken back'. As such, the reader views the vast change in persona in the poet.
There are many other effects which aid the success of this poem. For example, the line breaks in this poem gives a mind-cue to the reader that each short paragraph is a 'chapter' in her life. Each chapter is a section in which influenced her in some way. Thus it aids to the fact that it is a transitional piece, and in fact the knowledge acquired in the end is conjured up over a long period of time. Another example of great effects which aid the success of this poem is the poets use of figurative language such as 'greasy with guile' (personification), 'shed knowledge like petals' (simile), and 'the snail' (symbolism).
I was born senile and gigantic
my wrinkles charting
in pink the heights and ruts, events
of all possible experience.
At 6 I was sly as a weasel,
adroit at smiling and hiding,
slippery-fingered, greasy with guile.
At 12, instructed
by the comicbooks already
latent in my head, I was bored with horror.
At 16 I was pragmatic,
armoured with my wry red lipstick;
I was invulnerable,
I wore my hair like a helmet.
But by 20 I had begun
to shed knowledge like petals
or scales; and today I discovered
that I have been living backwards.
Time wears me down like water.
The engraved lines of my features
are being slowly expunged.
I will have to pretend:
the snail knows
thin skin is no protection;
though I can't go on
indefinitely. At 50 they will peel
my face away like a nylon stocking
uncovering such incredible blank
innocence, that even the mirrors
accustomed to grotesques
will be astounded.
I will be unshelled, I will be
of no use to that city
and like a horse with a broken back
I will have to be taken out and shot.