In the poem "The Woman Hanging From the Thirteeth Floor window" by Joy Harjo, what do you think "breaking loose" means/signifies?The words "breaking loose" are from the end of the poem.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Woman Hanging from the Thirteenth Floor Window," the quote

She thinks she remembers listening to her own life

break loose,

means something to the effect of breaking the chains that bind her to other people's definitions of her and her life: her children, her two husbands, her mother, her father, the "other women hanging,"  "of all the women she has been, of all / the men." It also means a breaking of the chains that bind her to her grief for the "lost beauty of her own life." Her life breaks away from counting it in the palms of her "children's hands" and seeing it reflected in the faces who "scream out from below" or "pull their children up like flowers" to protect them.

The quote signifies that somehow, in the horrific moment of hanging there from the thirteenth floor window, with the memory of big men saying "Get up. Get up," she is freed from others' tyranny over her being. Therefore the ending of the poem doesn't present only the inevitability of the crash down thirteen floors but rather it also presents an "or":

or ... she climbs back up to claim herself again.

The "or" allows her to climb back up into the window and be a new woman who can somehow see herself and her life as something different from what can be counted in children's palms and seen in big men's and hanging women's reflections.

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