Disembarking at Quebec

Disembarking at Quebec

By Margaret Atwood

Is it my clothes, my way of walking,
the things I carry in my hand
– a book, a bag with knitting-
the incongruous pink of my shawl

this space cannot hear

or is it my own lack
of conviction which makes
these vistas of desolation,
long hills, the swamps, the barren sand, the glare
of sun on the bone-white
driftlogs, omens of winter,
the moon alien in day-
time a thin refusal

The others leap, shout


The moving water will not show me
my reflection.

The rocks ignore.

i am a word
in a foreign language.

Summary of Disembarking at Quebec

  • Popularity of “Disembarking at Quebec”: The poem ‘Disembarking at Quebec’ was written by Margaret Atwood, a popular American literary critic, environmentalist, teacher, essayist, and poet. The poem is unique and was published in 1970 in her collection, The Journals of Susanna Moodie. The beauty of the poem lies in the expressions of Susanna on her migration to Quebec, a Canadian province, and her sense of jubilation at arriving at her destination.
  • “Disembarking at Quebec” As a Representative of Migration: The poet presents Susanna involved in ruminating over her clothes, walking style, her things, a book, and knitting tools. Then she thinks about the space and place, ruminating over her situation and reaching the conclusion that the space cannot bear her. Immediately she falls into doubt saying that as a stranger, it could be that the place or space does not make sense to her. Then she argues that it is actually that place that unwilling to accept her – the place with its desolations, swamps, sands, and glares of the sun on the sand beaches. All these things show that it is going to experience winter, the reason that it is refusing to accept the new immigrant. As she is not alone, some other people jump with the slogans of freedom, but she is ruminating about Quebec as the place she is going to live. As she is yet a foreigner, the rocks and water will take some time to become habitual to her or she will take some to come to terms with the place.
  • Major Themes in “Disembarking at Quebec”: Migration, alienation, and expression of happiness to reach a new country are three major themes of this poem. The poem used the mentioned themes through the first-person narrative of Susanna. Susanna reaches Quebec and sets her expression of mixed feelings whether she accepts or the place accepts him and then sees the expression of others that they are going high in the sky with delight and excitement, while she is almost speechless due to the strange landscape and alien environment.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Disembarking at Quebec

literary devices are literary nuts and bolts. They are used to make poetic or prose beautiful and worth reading. The analysis of these devices is given below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /i/ in “or is it my own lack”, the sound of /o/ in “The rocks ignore” and the sound of /i/ in “driftlog, omens of winter.”
  2. Alliteration: It is the use of successive consonant sounds in the initials of the successive words such as the sound of /b/ in “a book, a bag with knitting” and the sound of /m/ and /w/ in “Is it my clothes, my way of walking”.
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /t/ in “The moving water will not show me”.
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

The rocks ignore.
I am a word
in a foreign language.

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. The poem shows the use of imagery such as “The others leap, shout”, “The moving water will not show me / my reflection” and “Thie rocks ignore.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different. The poem shows the use of the implicit metaphor of migration and then the explicit metaphor of the moon.
  3. Personification: The poet has shown the use of water and rock as if they have life and emotions of their own. She has personified them.
  4. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from literal meanings. The poem shows the use of the symbols of swamps, sand, glare, and hills to highlight the alienation of the migrant girl.

 Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Disembarking at Quebec

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction and Tone: The poem shows the use of figurative language with a serious tone.
  2. Free Verse: The poem does not follow any rhyme scheme, which means that it is a free verse poem.
  3. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are two stanzas of more than two lines, two of two lines with four one-liners.

Quotes to be Used

These lines from “Disembarking at Quebec” are relevant to use when teaching about freedom and liberty.

The others leap, shout