Adrienne Rich, Themes

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Important themes in Rich’s poetry 4

Important themes in Rich’s poetry


Rich is perhaps best known as a feminist writer and many of her poems deal with the oppression of women by men. Marriage, in particular, is seen as a tool by which women are kept under men’s thumb. ‘From a Survivor’ emphasises how women can be mastered or controlled by their husbands. The speaker suggests that her husband’s body was ‘the body of a God’ and that it had ‘power’ over her life.

Similarly, in ‘Trying to Talk to a Man’, the speaker again suggests that her husband might have dominated her life: ‘Your dry heat feels like power / your eyes are stars of a different magnitude’. ‘Living in Sin’, too, touches on this topic, although here the couple are simply living together.

However, here it is the woman in the relationship who does all the work, who makes the bed and tidies the apartment: she ‘pulled back the sheets and made the bed and found / a towel to dust the tabletop’. The man with whom she lives, meanwhile, seems to contribute little to the upkeep of the household. This can be taken as yet another instance, therefore, of a woman being dominated or controlled by man. It is another poem in which Rich emphasises the fundamental inequality of marriage and of relationships between men and women.

‘The Roofwalker’ can be interpreted as a further poem that presents marriage in a negative light. In this poem the speaker realises her marriage has been a terrible mista...

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