In Adrienne Rich’s essay “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-vision”, 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