Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich

In the poem “Diving into the Wreck”, Adrienne Rich describes a dive into the ocean, from the boat, then to a ship wreck. During the beginning of the poem, she mentions that she is not diving into the wreck with a team of people, but she is doing it alone. Then she mentions the ladder, which is a literal passage way from the boat, into the ocean. She explains that “The ladder is always there/hanging innocently/close to the side of the schooner./We know what it is for,/we who have used it” (13-18). The ladder on the boat is a metaphor for a passage way into the wreck, it is what she needs to start her journey. She repeats “we” to show that yes she is alone, but not really alone, because people have taken this dive before. People have attempted to record the dive into the wreck, and they’ve all done it alone. This is why she must take the journey alone, without a team.

Diving into the wreck is a symbol of going into the past. Rich is attempting to change the future of women, but in order to do that, she must first “see the damage that was done” (55). The wreck itself is the history of women during male dominated times. This history, where the damage occurred, is the key to the answer of why the myths of gender roles exist today. Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” is also in a sense a dive into the wreck. She was one of the people to journey into the wreck, and is why Rich is not completely alone. Similarly to how Rich was journeying into the past to discover why certain myths exist today, Woolf was also going into the past, attempting to deconstruct why there still existed this gender consciousness, which inhibited both men and women to write to the best of their ability.

The voice of Rich shifts between “I”, which was prevalent in the beginning and middle of the text, to “we”, being used toward the end. When Rich makes it to the wreck she states: “I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair/streams black, the merman in his armored body./We circle silently” (61-64). Rich did not meet another male, nor is she both male and female. With switching to “we” instead of “I”, she is conveying that she is not thinking like women nor a man, but she is thinking like both, mixed together. This notion of being both male and female, or thinking objectively, can be traced back to the ideas and desires of Woolf for men and women in literature to come together in unity. Because in the wreckage, or within history, you can find man’s attempt to exert their superiority, and women’s sense of inferiority. The inhibitions in both sexes is the book of myths. It is what hinders society progression in both writing, and in general life.

2 thoughts on “Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich

  1. This is a very interesting interpretation of the poem “Diving into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich. The fact that this poem discusses a ship wreck is very symbolic of how she views women’s position. It’s essentially ruined by the standards set by society because men have dominated in all ways possible. To think of the ladder as the tool to get to the bottom of how women have been viewed so low is quite creative because it also shows Rich’s determination to find the truth as to how women got placed at the bottom of the hierarchy and she won’t stop until she finds her answer. This is an admirable trait for women don’t tend to question their place in society as they take things for how it is. So when someone, like Rich, challenges the status quo it’s her fight for equal rights that demonstrates strength, perseverance, and intelligence. You mentioned that Rich focuses not only about women for the fight for equal rights includes the assistance of men. So to say that Rich is a combination of both voices is remarkable for multiple voices is greater than one which will get her closer to the truth about women’s right to give Rich the platform to fight against women injustice.

  2. Hi Rivera,
    I really liked your interpretation of the poem “Diving into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich. i especially related to your interpretation of “i/we”. I noticed that as well, and I saw it as her going into the ocean on her own with the “Book of myth” being stories and myths shes herd of this “wreck” but she wants to see her own interpretation of it. She then goes down into the ocean and takes in everything she sees. Rich creates her own stories and “myth” from her personal experience. when she finally goes up she refers to herself as “we”. its now her experiences that come a long with her. she indicates in the last stanza “We are, I am , you are…the one who find our way”, its now not only the myths she heard around her but her own experience and story that together make “our” [their] way.
    Happy Thanksgiving to us all 🙂

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