[you fit into me] by Margaret Atwood – Poem Meaning and Poem Analysis

Margaret Eleanor Atwood (November 18, 1939) is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, teacher, environmental activist. She is an acclaimed modern novelist, winner of the Booker Prize, Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Governor General’s Award, the Franz Kafka Prize, Princess of Austrias Awards and the National Book Critics and PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Awards.

Margaret Atwood says that “my poems usually begin with words or phrases which appeal more because of their sound than their meaning, and the movement and phrasing of a poem are very important to me“. That statement seems particularly true in case of this poem. She also does not consider herself as a feminist and she does not designate her works as feminist.

The Poem [you fit into me] is one of Margaret Atwood’s shortest poem which  has only two stanzas and only 16 words. The title of the poem is in within a square bracket since title is the same as first line of the poem.

This poem was written in the year 1971 and when she wrote this poem she was married to Jim Polk, an American writer, whom she divorced in 1973.

[you fit into me] Poem by Margaret Atwood

you fit into me
like a hook into an eye

a fish hook
an open eye

Meaning and Interpretation of the poem [you fit into me]

While reading the first line of the poem the reader is left to assume that the poet is talking about herself and her partner/spouse. The reader is lead to believe that she and her partner fit each other. It is not a perfect fit. She compares their fit to that of a hook in an eye.

Hook and Eye are common in clothing items and are used to fasten things. Hook and eye represent a domestic item and confirms that the speaker is talking about a domestic relationship. The speaker establishes herself to be the eye and her partner to be the hook.

The fit that the speaker mentions maybe a physical one and the first two lines maybe understood as a euphemism. It may also be more than just a physical fit, it may be a mental fit – that they have thoughts that fit each other, or that their personalities match each other.

Fit is not a word that is usually used to describe a relationship. The usage of the word “fit” itself indicates that the there is something not normal about this relationship.

Next lines describes the “eye” and the “hook” used in the second line as a “fish hook” and an “open eye”. Here the poem pivots in a different direction and gives whole new meaning to the first two lines. Her partner, the hook, is a fish hook, and she is an open eye.

Fish hook does not fit into an open eye, and it is a disturbing visual to imagine. The intention of the poet in saying that fish hook fits into open eye maybe to convey the pain the eye (Speaker) is experiencing.

The outside world looks at the relationship and thinks that they fit into each other. On surface, on reading the first two lines, it seems like a happy relationship, however on close inspection and a lot of thought, in last two lines, it is visible that the speaker is in pain.

Themes in the poem [you fit into me]

Main themes in the poem [you fit into me] are Love, Pain, complexities of relationships and appearances which are deceiving. Since the poem is very short it can be interpreted to have very different meanings and themes.

  1. Love : Only people you love can cause you great pain. The speaker is talking about someone she loves and even if pain is a part of the relationship, it is caused only because the speaker loves that person. Speaker loves her partner and that is why she is vulnerable to that person.
    • One way of interpreting the poem is that the first two lines are setting up a joke and the next two lines are the punchlines of a joke, albeit a dark one. The speaker may be using humor to express the discomfort her partner causes. Everyday domestic problems or misunderstandings pile up and make the speaker furious, and she loves her partner to express it explicitly. Hence the poem maybe assumed to be the way the speaker takes out her frustration.
    • Another way of looking at it is that a fish hook and an open eye are not things that fit together. It is a very odd combination, and yet she and her partner being a very odd combination, somehow make it work.
  2. Pain :  Pain is widely interpreted to be the main theme of the poem. The degree of pain however is not exactly clear. It is also not clear if the pain is physical or mental.
    • Fish hook fitting into an open eye is an image that is painted to represent pain. It seems like a very specific example that not everyone can relate to. It may mean that the pain the speaker is going through is specific to her and she cannot express it to others in a way they understand. Since it is difficult to describe, it can be assumed that the pain is mental.
    • It also possible to take a view that the speaker is being sexually harassed by her partner. The  pain is physical as well as mental. Even though her partner fits into her physically, he is like a fish hook that is not welcome into an open eye.
  3. Complexities of relationships : The poem also slightly hints at the complexities of the relationship. Even though the speaker is suffering, she is not able to do anything about it. She is helpless due to the nature of her relationship. Maybe the society expects her to be with her partner.
  4. Appearances that are deceiving :
    • The speaker may be using the fish hook and the open eye analogy to express how different she and her partner are even though it seems to the outside world that they would be a good fit for each other. Their personalities are not what they seem to the outside world and they are not compatible.
    • The poem title itself deceives the reader. The title leads the reader to believe that the poem is about how the speaker is in a perfect relationship. Only the last two lines actually give the true picture.

[you fit into me] Poem Analysis

The poem is only four lines and does not have any punctuations or Uppercase letters. During the 70’s bell hooks used all lowercase letters in her name to signify that her work is more important than who she is. It is possible to assume that the poet wanted readers to focus on the message of the poem rather than the poem itself. In addition to that, the unusual use of lowercase letters may have been to symbolise melancholy and sadness the speaker is feeling due to the pain.

As we can observe in the poem the speaker addresses her partner first in both the stanzas which shows that she is prioritising him and giving him attention. She is observing his actions and describing him with relation to her.

Tone of the poem [you fit into me]

Interpretation of tone of the poem is left to the perception of the readers. It seems to appear as sorrow, sad, melancholic, and even sarcastic.

Speaker of the poem [you fit into me]

Speaker of the poem is not specified and is anonymous. Therefore we can assume it to be the poet herself.   

Metaphors in the poem [you fit into me]

Hook and Eye have been used as metaphors to represent the speaker and her partner.

Rhyme scheme of the poem [you fit into me]

The four line poem has aaba rhyme scheme where only third line has a different sound that is hook, where as rest are me and eye ( eye is repeated twice.)