Top-Rated Free Essay

The Appeal of Adrienne Rich

Good Essays
The Appeal Of Adrienne Rich’s Poetry

The poems of Adrienne Rich spoke to me in a powerful way. She was definitely one of the most original and thought provoking poets on my course. The poems that I have studied represent many of the new ideas that emerged during her life. Not only do I find these ideas interesting, but I believe that I have benefited directly from them. Her feminist outlook on life is evident in every one of her poems. The poems i have studied include; Living in Sin, Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers, Power and The Roofwalker
In Living in Sin Rich shows how relationships are approached and experienced differently by women and men. She focuses on a relationship where the woman and her husband are not equal; in the poem images are used to show what each member of the relationship faces. While these images are mundane and appear unimportant at first glance, they effectively show the female in an inferior position. The woman is confronted with stressful duties, seen with the images of ‘the sheets’ which need to be pulled back and to ‘let the coffee-pot boil over the stove’. The man is confronted with much less challenging and trivial duties; this is shown with the ‘dozen notes upon the keyboard’ and the relatively unimportant task of rubbing at ‘his beard’. In contrasting what the man and woman face in their relationships through such images, Rich shows the need for equality and thus her as a feminist; while the man’s version of where they live is the image of the ‘studio’, where he can simply pursue his pleasures, in contrast for Rich the studio becomes a place of work, where such images as the dusty ‘furniture of love’ need to be taken care of. A similar image of apparent worthlessness is seen in Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers, however once more it serves to show the oppression of a female. The image of ‘The massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band’ which ‘Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer’s hand’ at first glance seems to provide evidence of a marriage but on closer examination shows again the need for attaining rights for women. The Uncle dominates and controls the woman, emphasized explicitly by the weight of said image which does not allow Aunt Jennifer to move away from the Uncle and live her own life; the image of the weighty wedding band is used to explictly represent the emotional and psychological hold the Uncle has over Aunt Jennifer However, the poem is not completely pessimistic. I think it does a lot to celebrate the potential of women. Aunt Jennifer may have been repressed and timid but she produced tigers that were “proud and unafraid”. These tigers live on beyond her death. I think this poem hints at the changing position of women that we see today.
A poem that deals with change and power in a slightly less dramatic way is ‘Power’ in this poem Rich also goes back through history in order to discover objects that will shed light upon the nature of power and its origins. The speaker unearths a hundred year old bottle that remains in perfect condition. What was contained in this bottle is “an old cure for fever or a melancholy tonic for living on this earth, in the winters of their climate”. Rich cleverly constructs the poem in a way that illustrates the very act of sifting through or mining the “earth’s deposits” of history is order to better understand ourselves. On the very day that the bottle was discovered, we are told that the speaker was “reading about Marie Curie”. Rich exposes the irony of the fact that the element that Curie was purifying was at the same time destroying her. While she worked to perfect this material it bombarded her body for years. Yet she denies to the end that it was the radium that destroyed het. She cannot bring herself to admit that the “cataracts on her eyes” or the “cracked and pus discharging skin on her fingernails” was a result of her work. She continues to deny that her wounds came from the same source as her power. Adrienne Rich's poem Living In Sin is a free verse poem about a woman's fairy tale dream of marriage versus the reality of the sin of not loving each other. The subject of the poem is a woman starting a life of hope and happiness in a perfect relationship only to learn the true reality of the relationship. The first seven lines represent the woman's dream, her perfect marriage. Beginning in the first line, and continuing throughout the poem, we are given hints that the man is an artist. The word "studio" is referring to the house or apartment, but has clear connotations to an artist, as in an "artist's studio." The meaning of the first few lines is that the woman expected the house to always be tidy after she had fallen in love, but this is like "heresy,"because it is a common belief that you cannot get everything you want out of marriage. This is hyperbole, wanting faucets that weren't noisy and clean windows are not comparable to heresy, but Rich's point that in marriage you cannot expect very much is made much stronger. Lines four to seven, which use an alliterated letter "p," give additional expectations, but are referring to what she assumes life will be like with a proficient artist. The woman I believe is having an affair with the milkman. Several references are made to him ‘like a relentless milkman up the stairs’. She sees this act as an escape from her unhappiness with everyday life but it often plays on her mind “let the coffee-pot boil over on the stove” and she feels guilty about it come night time.

The Roofwalker identifies how Adrienne Rich conveys the breakdown of a house as a symbol of security through ocean and ship imagery, and through the physical elements of the poem, including line length, meter and the use of space on the page. The paper also analyzes the speaker's identification with the builders in the poem. The paper demonstrates how Rich draws the reader into the experience of the speaker, who is certain of doom and is completely confused on several levels.
Adrienne Rich’s poetry had a profound effect on me. It opened my eyes to the feminist society of today and the obviously patriarchal one of the mid to late 20th century. It is impossible not to appreciate the poetry of Adrienne Rich, her poetry is unique, with its variance of register and theme fused with a seriousness and descriptive power which inhabits her poetry. All these qualities combine to make each poem, and her poetry unique for every reader. This quality makes it impossible not to appreciate the poetry of Adrienne Rich.

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Better Essays

    Adrienne Rich

    • 1806 Words
    • 8 Pages

    The Poetry of Adrienne Rich Adrienne Rich was born in Baltimore, Maryland in the year of 1929. Rich grew up in a household as she describes it as " …white, middle-class, full of books, and with a father who encouraged her to write" (Daniel). Her father Arnold Rich was a doctor and a pathology professor and her mother, Helen Jones Rich , was a pianist and a composer. "Adrienne Rich recalls her growing-up years clearly dominated by the intellectual presence and demands of the male in the family…

    • 1806 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Good Essays

    Poems by Adrienne Rich

    • 1231 Words
    • 5 Pages

    Conflict can be internal or external, as exemplified in “Diving into the Wreck” and “Storm Warnings”. Conflict is the common theme between these two poems. Both of these poems were written by Adrienne Rich. Rich was an American poet and she was also a feminist. She wrote “Diving into the Wreck” during time period where women were still viewed as house wives. Even though some women had jobs, they were not giving the same benefits as male coworkers. The external conflict is between the women and the…

    • 1231 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Pieces of Adrienne Rich: She lived throughout her poems and changed her writing to express herself. Adrienne Rich is a writer that decides that she doesn't want to be another victim of the stereotype that is put on women (of her time.) In her writing days, the only method used to write was the "man's" method. Though in the beginning of her career she wrote in that style, she changed her method of writing to feminism for her third book. She took an opposite direction to the writing style, and did…

    • 574 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Adrienne Rich is a writer who has written several papers and poetries. For example, she wrote "The Necessities of Life" in 1966, "The Will to Change" in 1971, and "Leaflets" in 1969. Therefore, one event that Rich performed is a speech that was at a Douglass College convocation and which was printed in 1977 called "Claiming an Education". (Rich, pg. 608) The essay "Claiming an Education" is about how it is important for college students to claim an education and the reason we should have the education…

    • 398 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Good Essays

    Themes of Adrienne Rich Adrienne Rich's poetry changed for many reasons after 1955. It's difficult to pick just one, but it can be combined into one phrase; "her environment." Life started to change for Rich and women in general around that time. Her poetry serves as a corner stone for these changes. Aunt Jennifer's Tigers, and Living in Sin are the two poems the anthology lists as being written before or during 1955. Aunt Jennifer doesn't appear to be written about herself, but Sin does…

    • 442 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Better Essays

    Adrienne Rich on power in society Introduction The theme that interested me most in the poems by Adrienne Rich was the inadequacy of language as a means of communication. Rich shows that the reason for this lies in the way language expresses power relationships in society. Often this means the unequal relationship between women and men, but also between the powerful and the powerless. This theme is touched upon in almost every poem we studied, from Rich’s early poems to those written later. To…

    • 1130 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Warning” is written in chronological order to describe an oncoming storm. The speaker of the poem to be aware of the approaching storm and is taking safety precautions to protect themselves. However the storm reveals a much more deeper meaning. Adrienne Rich uses both literal and metaphorical meaning to compare the storm to the emotions of an individual. The poet’s tone presents a gloomy, melancholy tone so readers get the general atmosphere of the storm. In the first stanza, readers are aware of…

    • 263 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Good Essays

    Adrienne Rich’s “Diving into the Wreck” sends one into a deep cultural descent. We look a one ones exploration into the rift in society between sexes, and the journey to rewrite that. The three parts that symbolize this are: the book of myths, the camera and the knife, the diver’s relationship with the wreck and the cargo found below. The journey starts on a boat; the diver is alone and there not by choice but the need. The dive feels an obligation to free women from these myths, to “…heal the…

    • 813 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    collection of poems, is typical of her early work, illustrating the modest poetic ambitions for which she was praised by Auden. Technically, the work displays flawless craftsmanship, with a carefully regulated meter and rhyming couplets. Only later did Rich recognize how formalism functioned as she writes, "asbestos gloves," enabling her to grasp potentially dangerous materials without putting herself at risk, as in this poem. The formalism of "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" hides the more disturbing aspects…

    • 947 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Better Essays

    In Adrienne Rich’s essay, Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying, she discusses what could happen when people lie and how lying in all its different forms chips away at people’s basic morals and humanity. Rich explains that lying comes in different forms such as concealing parts of our identity or changing our physical appearance in order to fit society’s standards. Even little white lies or lies told to spare others’ pain can cause a huge effect on people’s lives. Rich focuses on the idea of women…

    • 2142 Words
    • 9 Pages
    Better Essays