Adrienne Rich Questions and Answers

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In Adrienne Rich's poem "Diving into the Wreck," what context encouraged Rich to write this poem? Who is the author directing her message toward?

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There was a lot going on in the world which may have prompted Adrienne Rich to write "Diving into the Wreck." On a personal level, Rich went through painful problems in her marriage to her husband, Alfred Conrad, an economics professor at Harvard. Rich moved out of their shared house into her own apartment, and in 1970, Conrad killed himself. A few years later, Rich acknowledged her identity as a gay woman and moved in with her female partner.

On a more public level, the United States was embroiled in turmoil in the early 1970s, with the Vietnam War, issues of race still topic on the tail of the Civil Rights Movement, and the fight for women's equality sparking across the country. As a feminist and political poet, Rich was very likely inspired to write this poem by the chaos around her, both in the private and public spheres. The poem deals with gender and sexual identity, encountering the "damaged" self, and the search for understanding the pain in our lives.

Rich likely wrote this poem to encourage those around her—Americans, particularly American women—to begin this journey into the self, which is, after all, an inevitable one. As Rich poignantly points out at the conclusion of the poem,

We are, I am, you are

by cowardice or courage

the one who find our way

back to this scene.

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