Essay, Research Paper: Adrienne Rich's Revision


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The author writes about her personal experience as a woman writer in a male
dominated society. Her essay consists of poems, which she had written throughout
different times in her life, to demonstrate the transformation in her writing.
As a woman writer in a male dominated society, Rich begins writing in the
traditional style, "the man's way," but as she continues writing, Rich
breaks from these traditional styles to form her own. Like Freire, Rich believes
people should break from society and be able to think and question things for
themselves. While Freire wants to change the educational system, Rich wants to
change writing. Both Freire and Rich want to break from the traditional ways of
the past. Rich believes that women need to break from the enduring attitudes of
traditions which society has placed upon them. Rich is upset with the
limitations placed on women in society, particularly in marriage. It is for this
reason that the themes of many of Rich's poems are advice for women to live life
for themselves, listening only to what their hearts tell them. The three poems
"Aunt Jennifer's Tigers," "Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law"
and "Planetarium" are analyzed to demonstrate the changes in Rich's
way of writing. Rich wrote "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" in 1951, while she
was a student. At this time in her life she conforms to tradition in her
writing, and tries not to identify herself as a female poet. Rich does not
identify herself as a female poet by detaching herself from her character and
allowing her character to accept the life that man has placed upon woman. Rich's
writing is constrained by man because she allows her character to be oppressed
by man and does not make her a conscious being of oppression. In "Aunt
Jennifer's Tigers", Rich writes about a woman who does not break from the
accepted roles of society. Aunt Jennifer does not have the freedom to live for
herself because of society's expectations on women. The only way for Jennifer to
free herself is by making up a fantasy world. The author writes about the
universal issues involved in the relationship between men and women, in where
woman is a slave to man. Rich writes "the massive weight of Uncles' wedding
band"; Aunt Jennifer is pinned down, the "band sits heavily in her
hand", the image of the wedding band brings a feeling of slavery and fear
(608). Rich's tone in the poem is observant and she makes it clear that she does
not want to live a life like Aunt Jennifer's. In the poem Rich makes Aunt
Jennifer distinct from herself by placing Aunt Jennifer into a different
generation, breaking any connection between the author and the character. Rich's
writing structure in this poem contains the real life within the fantasy life.
The first stanza of the poem is about the proud tigers. The second stanza is
about terrified Aunt Jennifer. The third stanza refers to the continuation of
the second stanza and then to the tigers. In this way, by starting the poem with
the tigers and ending with the tigers, Rich is containing the real life within
the fantasy, in reverse of Aunt Jennifer, whose inner life is contained within
her outer life. In this poem Rich portrays what can happen to an individual who
accepts the fate prescribed by custom. The overall message is that men suppress
women. "Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law" was written when Rich was
experiencing herself as a woman. During this time, society believed that women
were put on this earth to make a family and take care of them. During this time
in Rich's life, she was very occupied with being a wife and a mother; because of
this she did not have time to think or write. She wrote this poem in fragments
of time, while her children were taking naps. "The poem was jotted in
fragments during children's naps, brief hours in a library or at 3:00 A.M. after
rising with a wakeful child"(611). "Snapshots of a
Daughter-in-Law" is a poem about a woman who is hearing voices that are
telling her to resist and rebel but can not obey them. The woman wants to rebel
against society but she will not, because society does not accept this kind of
behavior. Rich still writes the poem in the traditional way. The woman in this
poem thinks about rebelling but does not actually rebel; therefore Rich is still
accepting the oppression on women. Until this poem Rich tried not to identify
herself as a female poet. She still does not use the pronoun "I"; the
woman in the poem is always addressed as "she". In the poem there is a
connection between the character and the author. Rich writes about what she is
personally experiencing and how she feels about her life. The voices in the poem
are really the woman's thoughts and the woman's thoughts are really Rich's
thoughts questioning the views of society on woman. Rich's questioning of the
views placed on women is an awakening of the mind. The character in the poem is
being a conscious being, she is questioning how things are. In this poem though,
Rich does not the have the courage to let the reader know that the character in
the poem is really herself. The poem "Planetarium" was written after
Rich went to a real planetarium and encountered the work of an astronomer named
Caroline Hershel. Hershel worked with her brother on discovering comets but was
not recognized as her brother was for her work. This demonstrates the
domineering grip that man and society had on a woman during this time. Rich
wrote this poem thinking of Caroline Herschel and other women who have been
oppressed by society. Unlike the other two poems, "Aunt Jennifer's
Tigers," and "Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law," Rich does not
write in the traditional style. Her poem is written in free-style and it is
spaced out. Finally, in this poem Rich becomes bolder and she uses the word
"I" to make the character and the author become one person. In this
poem Rich transformed the way of writing. She broke away from traditional views
to form her own style. Rich finally identifies herself as a female writer and
has the courage to write exactly how she feels. In this poem Rich writes about
her feelings and thoughts on women breaking from society. She makes women
realize what society has done to them. Therefore the poem becomes feminist, the
theme of the poem is for women to break from the traditional views of society,
which encourages women to think for themselves and to question things. In her
essay "When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision", Rich uses a
"dialogue" with her work to demonstrate the transformations in her
writing. There are three of Rich's voices throughout the whole essay. One of the
voices is the critic, the second is the author of the poems and the third is the
writer of the essay. Rich criticizes and critiques her own poems to demonstrate
the differences in her writing. She transformed language by breaking the
traditional views and by writing about man's power over women. At first it
prevented her from writing the way she wanted just because she was a woman.
Society did not expect a women to have a job as a writer instead writing was
considered as a hobby for women. Rich had been taught that society considered
poetry to be "universal" meaning non-female. Because Rich had been
taught that poetry was "universal" it was very hard for her to write
the things that she wanted too. Rich lost herself to society, becoming a mother
and a wife and not being able to write as much as she liked. After a couple of
years she divorced her husband and found herself again. As a result, Rich is her
own teacher. She taught herself to have the courage to rebel against society and
become a conscious being.
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