Saturday, April 7, 2012

Feminism Embraced-Adrienne Rich

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Adrienne Rich’s poetry is considered some of the most meaningful works in modern literature. All of her works are influenced by her political beliefs, social beliefs, and past experiences. Throughout her literary career, she has embraced feminism as one of the cornerstones of her work. Many of her works that take the feminist standpoint include “Living in Sin,” “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers,” and “A Woman Mourned by Daughters.” From Feminism, to rape, to political statements, Rich covers a wide range of topics and I feel that she does it very well. She writes from past experiences and one can feel this as the poetry is being read. Her work not only contains the relationships between men and women, but also the relationships between women and other aspects of their lives. “Rich has a way of choosing images that fit the object she is trying to portray.”(A Critical Analysis)

In “Living in Sin,” she writes of a relationship between a man and a woman that, at that time, went against her religious and family values. She poetically embodies a woman who cannot come to terms with the fact that her relationship is failing. This woman, throughout the poem, tries to justify her love for this man that no longer exists.

“She had thought the studio would keep itself;

no dust upon the furniture of love.

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Half heresy, to wish the taps less vocal,

The panes relieved of grime.”(Lines, 1-4)

Within the poem, “writhe,” “coldly,” and “scraps” are abstract words used to describe the way that she feels in this relationship with this man. When she states “She had thought the studio would keep itself,” she is feeling that the relationship would last. She thought there would be no work involved to sustain her love relationship. She dreamed of the fairytale life and now she is coming to the realization that this is not how her relationship is. She compares her love relationship to the upkeep of her household. She seems to be having second thoughts about her relationship with this man.

Meanwhile, he, with a yawn,

Sounded a dozen notes upon the keyboard,

Declared it out of tine, shrugged at the mirror,

rubbed at his beard, went out for cigarettes; (Lines, 15-18)

This is the first time in the poem that you actually hear about the man. One cannot tell if they are married or if they are not. The “sin” spoken about in this poem may not be actually living together out of wedlock. It may just be the “sin” of being together in a relationship and trying to endure being together and not being in love with each other anymore. He is obviously tired of the relationship and feels that the passion is gone in the relationship. Rich’s descriptive language in this poem makes you feel the torment that the woman and man in this poem are feeling.

“While she, jeered by the minor demons,

pulled back the sheets and made the bed and found

a towel to dust the table-top,

and let the coffee-pot boil over on the stove.”(Lines, -6)

Throughout the whole poem, the woman is attempting to find reasons to stay in love with this man. After the man leaves the home, she begins to clean the apartment to try to keep up the appearance that he and she are still in love. The cleanliness of their

home symbolizes her thoughts of their relationship. She feels that if her home is clean and lovely that her relationship will be too.

Adrienne Rich’s poem “A Woman Mourned by Daughters” described two women who are speaking to their dead mother. The poem starts when the mother dies and moves back in time to when the daughters where little girls.

“Now, not a tear begun,

we sit here in you kitchen,

spent, you see, already”(Lines 1-)

The title of the poem implies that they are mourning for their mother but in reality they are emotionally drained from the pressure put on them by their mother before she died. Even though the mother has recently died, they feel more relieved than sad about her death.

“What rises in our throats

like food you prodded in?

Nothing could be enough.

You breathe upon us now

through solid assertions

of yourself teaspoons, goblets,

seas of carpet, a forest

of old plants to be watered”

(Lines, 1-6)

This passage discusses the daughter’s feelings that even after the death of their mother, the pressure that their mother put on them is not gone and perhaps never will be. They are still haunted by their mother’s words to them and her gestures towards them. They are remembering the way that their mother had treated the daughters while she was alive. Rich uses many descriptive words to describe the mother in this poem. She is compared with a “leaf” and also seen as “crisp as a dead insect.” These words give the feeling that the mother was more feared by the daughters than loved by them.

“And all this universe

dares us to lay a finger

anywhere, save exactly

as you would wish it done.

(Line -)

The ending of the poem implies that if the daughters do not carry out their mother’s wishes in the way that she would have wanted, even though their mother is dead, that they will still feel the repercussions of their actions.

In the poem, “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers,” the quilt that she is making is representing the life that she wasn’t able to have.

“Aunt Jennifer’s tigers prance across a screen,

Bright topaz denizens of a world of green.

They do not fear the men beneath the tree;

They pace in sleek chivalric certainty. (Line 1-4)

The “tigers prancing across a screen” in this poem symbolizes the free and unrestrained life that she was unable to live. Because of her marriage, she is restrained by her husband and has lost the ability to fulfill her life dreams. Her husband is holding her back from all that she has ever wanted. Aunt Jennifer was never allowed to be herself and her husband was holding her back from her dreams.

“Aunt Jennifer’s fingers fluttering through her wool

Find even the ivory needle hard to pull.

The massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band

Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer’s hand.”(Line 5-8)

Describing that the ivory needle is hard to pull implies that her longing to be her own person is becoming harder and harder to deal with and it is tearing her apart inside day by day. “The massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band” is a sad reminder of the life that she could have had if she had not married her husband.

“When Aunt is dead, her terrified hands will lie

Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by.

The tigers in the panel that she made

Will go on prancing, proud and unafraid.” (Lines, -1)

Here Aunt Jennifer knows that there is no escape from her present life. She must endure her lack of fulfillment and suffer silently through the life that she has chosen. This is a sad poem but also an excuse for empowerment of women. Women have the power to make their own choices in life and should not have to settle with the life that, in the past, may have been chosen for them.

Adrienne Rich has been a source of empowerment for many women today. She has brought forth all of the issues that involve women and has made it known to all. She has been a pioneer in the feminist movement. “The images she uses throughout her work paint a clear picture in the reader’s head, and without ever having to come right out and

say it, you can just see and feel the meaning of the poem. The images pull you in, and make you want to see deeper, further into what might be meant by the poem.”(A Critical Analysis) Adrienne Rich is able to take everyday, ordinary life and turn it into a learning experience for those who take life for granted and never get to see the real meaning of life.

Works Cited

“Adrienne Rich A Critical Analysis.” Mar. 001. 0 April 00.


“Adrienne Rich-Living In Sin.” Nov. 00. 7 March 00.


“Ideological Reading-Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers.” Jan. 17. 1 April 00.


“Adrienne Rich-A Woman Mourned by Daughters.” Mar. 00. 1 April 00.


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