(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Rich’s signature themes spring up throughout Fox. The collection’s title poem reflects a longing for recognition and recollection. To have the latter, she must acquire the former. Recognition of self and identity, Rich has taught her readers, can be ascertained through history and self-exploration. She warns her reader, “I needed history of fox” and moves into the symbolic nature of birth to emphasize how formative recollection can be to self-awareness: Go “back far enough it blurts into the birth-yell of the yet-to-be human child/ pushed out of a female the yet-to-be woman.” Though Rich has discovered the secret to attaining her recognition, and thus recollection, it is lost—born into the world, but lost nevertheless. It is important to note that the “fox” is not an animal, but symbolic of the animal-like nature of human beings.

In this poem, Rich revisits the promises of birth set forth in Of Woman Born, yet she finds herself unable to fulfill them without the fox. However, “Fox” conveys an optimistic tone not shared by the poems surrounding it because it is written in the past tense: “I needed fox.” This signifies that she has does find the lost symbol, fox, enabling her to depict accurately the “tearing and torn endless and sudden” haunting effects of memory.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist 98 (October 1, 2001): 295.

Library Journal 126 (September 15, 2001): 85.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune, September 9, 2001, p. 13F.

The Washington Post Book World, November 11, 2001, p. 4.