How is content of the poem "History" by Adrienne Rich relevant to its title?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The title of Adrienne Rich’s poem “History” is relevant to the poem’s content in a number of different ways, including the following:

  • The poem deals with the speaker’s personal history – her “life” – as the opening line already implies.
  • The poem deals more specifically with the history of the speaker’s love-lives, as lines 2 and 3 suggest.
  • The poem deals with different periods and events in American history, as the fourth line implies.
  • The poem deals with history as it is shared by another person or other persons, as line 6 indicates.
  • The poem deals with American cultural history, particularly the history of the movies, as is suggested by lines 7-8. It also deals with the ways cultural history shapes the subsequent histories of individual persons.
  • The poem deals with the history shared between the speaker and another (unnamed) girl in particular (see lines 10-12).
  • The poem deals with history as it was taught in school (see line 12).
  • The poem deals with one of the major turning points in American history of the twentieth century: the allied victory in World War II (13-14).
  • The poem deals with various events of national and international history, including the dropping of atomic bombs (26), the suicide of F. O. Mathieson (27-28), and the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (34).
  • The poem also seems to deal with the speaker’s history of love for both women and men and with her marriage to a man.
  • Finally, the last two lines of the poem seem to suggest that the historical conditions of any society at any given point in time determine how people are allowed to express their love:

(When shall we learn, what should be clear as day,

We cannot choose what we are free to love?)  (36-37)

 

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