Home Literature Self Portrait Summary by AK Ramanujan

Self Portrait Summary by AK Ramanujan

by Litinbox

‘Self Portrait’ is one among AK Ramanujan‘s many poems which deals with identity, here ‘loss of self-identity’. It’s an ‘introspective poem’. This poem was published in Ramanujan’s ‘The Striders’ in 1966.

AK Ramanujan penned most of his poems very concise but with interesting wordplay or vocabulary that make them interesting. This poem is no exception. As usual, this poem is written in free verse. There is no rhyme or particular meter.

Self Portrait by AK Ramanujan

I resemble everyone

but myself, and sometimes see

in shop-windows

  despite the well-known laws

  of optics,

the portrait of a stranger,

date unknown,

often signed in a corner

by my father.

Self Portrait by AK Ramanujan Summary

The poem “Self Portrait” describes a person who feels like he resembles everyone else but not himself. When he sees his reflection in shop windows, he sometimes feels like he is looking at a stranger. This stranger’s image seems to be created by his father, as if his father is responsible for how he sees himself. He also seems more like his father than himself.

Despite the scientific laws of optics, which should show one’s true reflection, he sees someone unfamiliar on the mirror, suggesting a disconnect between his self-perception and his true identity.

The speaker deplores that he resembles everyone around him whether it is known or stranger, friends or enemies. He relies on everyone but not himself. He fails to identify his individuality and thereby looses his self-confidence.

When one cannot identify him with himself, he needs self-motivation. Otherwise the whole life will be a blank page to him. The speaker here looses his identity to his father and to everyone. The very first line of the poem ‘I resemble everyone’ constructs the theme of the whole poem. It shows his inability to identify his own individuality.

The speaker feels that he is not unique but this makes the poem unique and sensible. This is one of the shortest poems of AK Ramanujan and stands an epitome of his successful poetic career.

Self Portrait: Analysis

The tone of the poem is introspective. It utilises a few poetic devices like allusion (“despite the well-known laws / of optics” -an allusion to the science of optics), imagery (“the portrait of a stranger, / date unknown, / often signed in a corner / by my father“) and so on.

The language of the poem is very simple and the speaker addresses directly. Comparably this poem is notable for its brevity. It seems more personal that the speaker can be identified with the poet. Like many other poems of AK Ramanujan, this poem is also notable for its departure from traditional poetry because it doesn’t follow a particular rhyme scheme, meter etc.

Some scholars suggest that ‘Self Portrait’ is autobiographical poem. Then, as already mentioned, the speaker is the poet himself. Most of the people in the world suffer from self-identity, and this poem is immensely popular because of this.

Self-identity is very important because it provides a person self-confidence and necessary to acquire self-esteem. Without individuality or self-identity, it is never possible for anyone to achieve something notable in his/ her life.

The persona in this poem may refer to the modern man who struggles to live a content life and looses his identity to someone like his father or boss or someone who controls him. He has many dreams but that are never fulfilled most of the times.

‘Self Portrait’ captures this loss of identity amidst the struggles of man in his life. He resembles everyone but never himself. He wishes to identify himself with those who achieved something noteworthy in life. He longs to live such a successful life and in course of time he looses his identity to such a person.