Adrienne Rich Questions and Answers

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Can someone please explain "Amends" by Adrienne Rich?

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jeanna Paden eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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“Amends” by Adrienne Rich is a poem that juxtaposes the natural with the industrial/human. When reading a poem, it's helpful to examine what is literally happening within the text and what is happening figuratively. In the literal sense, a tree is blooming (“a white star, then another / exploding out of the bark”), people are sleeping in their homes (“eyelids of sleeper”), and the moonlight is moving over everything (“it soaks through cracks into trailers”). Figuratively, the ocean lays “its cheek for moments on the sand” and “licks the broken ledge” of the cliff.

The tension picks up in the third stanza (“gash”) and is aimed at industrial devices (“the crop dusting plane” and “sand-and-gravel quarry”). At the end of the poem, the moonlight comes to rest on a sleeping person “as if to make amends,” which personifies the moonlight and implies that there has been a distance or strain between the natural world (the moon) and the human race.
Overall, “Amends” seems to be about a conflict, although you might find evidence of other themes in the text as well.

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accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This excellent poem concerns the link between moonlight and humans. We are persented with moonlight personified in various ways, some of them quite sensuous, as it lights up various aspects of the landscape and finally "dwells upon the eyelids of sleepers." Note how moonlight is personfied as it "licks the broken ledge" and "laying its cheek for moments on the sand." The moonlight is presented as unyielding and able to penetrate and reach everywhere. Note how the poem describes it as "unavailing" and it has the ability to "soak" through cracks. Moonlight is personified as a graceful and empathising female figure that seems to bring healing or relaxation to humans for the sufferings and harships they experience during day time. Moonlight wants to "make amends," and as we follow its journeying over the landscape to its ultimate destination of the humans that it finds, we are struck with the idea of the moon being personified as some form of benevolent goddess who wants to make up at night for the harships of the day.

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