Adrienne Rich Questions and Answers

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What do the bears represent in this poem?   I've read this poem over and over again, and I'm not sure what the bears are supposed to represent. When I read it, it just seems like she's talking about bears walking through her house at night. "Wonderful bears that walked my room all night,Where have you gone, your sleek and fairy fur,Your eyes' veiled and imperious light? Brown bears as rich as mocha or as musk,White opalescent bears whose fur stood outElectric in the deepening dusk, And great black bears that seemed more blue than black,More violet than blue against the dark-Where are you now? Upon what track Mutter your muffled paws that used to treadSo softly, surely, up the creakless stairWhile I lay listening in bed? When did I lose you? Whose have you become?Why do I wait and wait and never hearYour thick nocturnal pacing in my room?My bears, who keeps you now, in pride and fear?" My best guess is that the speaker is afraid of these bears, but misses them since they have left? I'm not too sure. Please help!

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Felicita Burton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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To understand what the bears mean to the author, try putting yourself in her situation. Picking up on some key words can help you locate where she was and what time it was when the bears were with her.

In the first line, the bears "walked my room at night." Their fur was "electric in the deepening dusk." They used to walk "softly, surely, up the creakless stair/ While I lay listening in bed...." They walked around, and she would hear their "thick nocturnal pacing in my room..."

But the presence of the bears walking up the stairs and around her room at night is clearly a thing of the past. When was that? And why bears? We can think of a time when bears seemed real to us, our childhood with its teddy bears. Rich is positioning the bears' actions as real instead of imaginary to accentuate the powerful role that imagination plays in children.

In addition, she is speaking to the bears--the poetic device of apostrophe , direct address, often to an inanimate object or...

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