Backdrop Addresses Cowboy by Margaret Atwood Analysis

Topics: The Star-Spangled Banner, Stanza, Narcissism Pages: 2 (758 words) Published: November 2, 2014
Land of the Entitled, Home of the Desecrated

In Margaret Atwood’s “Backdrop Addresses Cowboy” the title indicates that the speaker is the backdrop, or scenery, addressing a self-absorbed and naive cowboy. The cowboy represents the imperialistic nature of Americans, and the scope extends past the days of cowboys, settlers, and Native Americans, and can even be applied to our nation’s present state. Margaret Atwood is Canadian, and expresses her anti-American sentiments through her poem, as she writes about the egocentric and greedy ways of humanity (though many right wing critics consider her to be too “left wing”). The poem focuses on our imperialistic ways, and although it was written in the 1970’s about the 1800’s, it is still applicable to current events today.

Atwood begins the poem with “starspangled cowboy,” where the word “starspangled” refers to the American flag and National Anthem, giving the cowboy a patriotic touch. But if we consider the National Anthem more we realize that it is about bombs and war, giving the word that at first had a good connotation, a negative one. She concludes the first stanza with a description of the cowboy “tugging a papier-mâché cactus/ on wheels behind you with a string.” This is an allusion to Hollywood, as they would use papier-mâché cactuses as props. This allusion suggests the phony nature of the cowboy and his “porcelain grin,” implying the warped way we view the conquering of the West, and even the way we view our “heros.” The backdrop then calls out the cowboy’s bogus act, claiming that he is “innocent as a bathtub/ full of bullets.” This is another allusion to Hollywood and the phony nature of the cowboy, pointing out his hypocrisy with a vivid image that the reader can picture clearly.

In the second Stanza, Atwood addresses the cowboy’s entitled nature. She describes how his “righteous eyes” and “laconic trigger-fingers” fill the streets with villains and targets, therefore...
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