Adrienne Rich

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In Adrienne Rich's poem "Harpers Ferry," why does she juxtapose a hypothetical situation with certainty when describing the men possibly from John Brown's failed raid?

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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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