Adrienne Rich

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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 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???  

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"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...

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"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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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.

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