Harpers ferry poem by Adrienne RichI don’t understand the reason for the juxtaposition of the hypothetical situation, “suppose”, of the girl and the I “know” when describing the  men who...

Harpers ferry poem by Adrienne Rich

I don’t understand the reason for the juxtaposition of the hypothetical situation, “suppose”, of the girl and the I “know” when describing the  men who may or may not be those of john browns failed raid. Why does she create this juxtaposition?  Is this part of Rich’s whole “men left women out of history”, “we were wronged” etc  thing???

 

Asked on by cass094

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

"Harper's Ferry" by Adrienne Rich shows a woman trying to escape her from her oppressed role within her white patriarchal family, and Rich uses the violence of the historical Harper's Ferry raid as foil for the emotional turmoil felt by this abused woman.  The events connected to Harper's Ferry could be one big extended metaphor for women's roles within society. 

"the cotton swells in its boll and you feel yourself engorged,unnameable
you yourself feel encased and picked-open, you feel yourself
unenvisaged.  There is no quarrel possible in this silence"

Her imagery of the South definitely evokes the feeling of being trapped, contained, and limited within a pre-defined role.  The idea of "no quarrel possible" uses understatement to suggest the general disenfrachisement of women within the traditional hierarchy, and the silence, instead of being peaceful, feels oppressive.

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think your interpretation makes sense.  Adrienne Rich suffered under the conformity of traditional female roles.  She basically re-invented her life as an adult, after having gone the usual route and married and had kids.  She decided to do something different.  The Harper's Ferry incident is a very male-centered moment in history.  She was providing an alternative viewpoint.

Sources:
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sooze | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

The reference to Moses or 'the General' in the poem relates to Harriet Tubman (1819-1913) who was born into a large family of slaves in Maryland and who later became a leading light in the abolitionist movement; an integral part of the Underground Railroad, which provided safe havens and guidance for escaping slaves; a humanitarian and a Union nurse and spy during the Civil War.  She is often referred to as the 'Moses' of her people for leading so many of them out of bondage to freedom. John Brown , the militant abolitionist she sometimes worked with, called her General Tubman for her bravery. In 1858 she helped Brown raise funds for a raid on the United States Armoury at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, after which he planned to arm the slaves of the town and instigate a rebellion, although she did not participate in the ill-fated 1859 raid

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cass094 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

"Harper's Ferry" by Adrienne Rich shows a woman trying to escape her from her oppressed role within her white patriarchal family, and Rich uses the violence of the historical Harper's Ferry raid as foil for the emotional turmoil felt by this abused woman.  The events connected to Harper's Ferry could be one big extended metaphor for women's roles within society. 

"the cotton swells in its boll and you feel yourself engorged,unnameable
you yourself feel encased and picked-open, you feel yourself
unenvisaged.  There is no quarrel possible in this silence"

Her imagery of the South definitely evokes the feeling of being trapped, contained, and limited within a pre-defined role.  The idea of "no quarrel possible" uses understatement to suggest the general disenfrachisement of women within the traditional hierarchy, and the silence, instead of being peaceful, feels oppressive.

Thank you very much. I hadn't made the link between the silence being oppressive. I had focused on the woman's muteness instead. As I also asked above, I am also puzzled by the Moses reference and what cause she represents and it's significance in the poem. I would appreciate any insight you have to offer on this point. Thanks again.

 

cass094's profile pic

cass094 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

I think your interpretation makes sense.  Adrienne Rich suffered under the conformity of traditional female roles.  She basically re-invented her life as an adult, after having gone the usual route and married and had kids.  She decided to do something different.  The Harper's Ferry incident is a very male-centered moment in history.  She was providing an alternative viewpoint.

thank you very much for your response. I am also confused about the cause Moses represents and her significance in the poem. Can you provide any input on this?

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