Adrienne Rich 9

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The poetry of Adrienne Rich documents the struggles and difficulties that women endure in the modern world. Many of these difficulties are the result of the nature of the society in which we live. Rich suggests that this society of ours is inherently biased towards the male. The consequence of this for women is that they are never given the opportunities to actualise their potential or even communicate their true feelings and desires. One of the fundamental problems as Rich perceives is the very language that we use. It is designed to promote the male and his values and needs, often at the expense of the female. In the poem ‘Our Whole Life’ the speaker states that ‘Our whole life’ is a ‘translation’. Women, it seems, are obliged to speak a language that does little more than provide support for a system that is inherently opposed to their empowerment. Whenever they seek to communicate their messages are ‘rendered into the oppressor’s language’ – i.e. that of the male. It is not, however, the case that Rich is suggesting that men are consciously dominating women through the language that they use. The problem is really a lot more insidious and complicated than that. Rich is conscious of the fact that the words and phrases we use in everyday speech have a history, their meanings were established long before we came to speak them. And it is Rich’s belief that at the root of language and the values that we take to be given and eternal, lies an origin, a point of origination where roles were first established. The whole notion of what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman has a history, yet it is a history that extends so far back in time that it is almost impossible to determine where it all began and who is ultimately responsible for the roles that we adopt in the modern world. In ‘Diving Into The Wreck’ Rich uses the dive into the dark depths of the sea to symbolise her efforts to penetrate the murky waters of history in order to see what lies at the...
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