Diving into the Wreck. Poem Analysis Essay Example

In life there are social justice issues that must be addressed. In the poem “Diving into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich she addresses the issue of inequality for women. Rich was born in Maryland in 1929. In 1951, not only did Rich graduate, but in the same year her first book of poetry was published. It was not until 1973 that “Diving into the Wreck” was published, being a part of the book with same title. As a young adult she married and had three sons, moving to New York in 1966. During a time when the feminist movement was gaining strength, Rich came deeply engaged in these social issues. Rich’s writings reflect her personal beliefs tremendously. She felt conflicted between her duties to her family and her desire to write this discord is evident in her poetry (Leanne 2014). Winning the National Book Award for Poetry, Rich refused to accept the award for herself. Instead she joined with two other female poets and accepted it on behalf of all women whose voices that have been silenced.

Poem Summary

The speaker chronicles the exploration of a ship wreck as a scuba diver in “Diving into the Wreck. The poem begins with “First having read the book of myths” showing that the speaker is not only departing to view the ship wreck as she prepares to descend into the sea. Preparing for this journey, she possesses not only the book but a camera and knife. The journey to the bottom is one that will be taken alone. As she descends, it is a rush but then there is a feeling of uncertainty and there is a shift as she is fully submerged in the water. As she goes deeper the colors change from blue to green to black, there is a feeling of panic as she says, “I am blacking out” (36). After the feeling of panic resides, she understands breathing differently and the sense of freight diminishes. The speaker is calmed by using self-talk as she begins this new exploration and reminds herself not to lose focus of the purpose of the dive.

As she adapts to this new world with uncertainty, she begins to feel at home. Beneath the water she begins to describe her surroundings and describes the beauty that the water possesses. “Everything is different down here.” (51) Journeying further into the depths below, the sunken ship becomes visual and the idea of being alone changes. As the speaker begins to closely observe her surroundings, she notices treasures but that is not her focus as it has been “left to rot” (82). Arriving at the ship, the speakers form is changed, now to that of a mermaid and/or merman. They circle around the wreck silently, together as one, as “our names do not appear” (94) the poem concludes, just as it began, with the “book of myths” (92).



This poem has many different parts in which the reader can relate to. Although this poem can be read at the literal level it is truly addresses the significant theme of women’s role in society. The language and structure of the poem accentuates the underlying struggle in finding one’s own version of the truth. This poem strays from traditional poetic patterns, instead there is a lack of rhyming, stanza patterns, and variable lengths. In the first stanza, she is preparing her mind and body as she is preparing for this journey of a lifetime. The initial dive is more that to just explore the ship remains, she is diving into the past. The imagery is both light and dark, contrasting between adventure and truth. It is a journey that one must make on their own, “not like Cousteau with his/assiduous team” (9/10).

As the speaker takes her first step towards individualization, she discusses the ladder in detail, as it plays a pivotal role in this journey. The ladder is a metaphoric gateway to the truth that separates her from the water, likewise it also separates the lies and the truths as it is portrayed as “always there/hanging incorrectly” (14/15). By personifying the ladder as innocent she suggests that it is one of the most important steps in her journey and the figurative language leans to the ideas that the previous and current understandings of history in relation to the views placed upon women. In that, they are literally crippling themselves. As she “crawls like an insect” (30). The narrator suggests vulnerability as the representation of crawling is usually associated with softness and immaturity. In relation to the magnitude of the ocean compared to the speaker, we can see the insignificance compared to the larger picture of the truth. d

By plunging metaphorically into the deep water, I believe she is presenting an opportunity for others to realize that they need to reconstruct their views of the female. As she dove deeper it is difficult for the speaker to remember her original purpose. The speaker is diving deeper into her own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Although, the diver wants to discover the ship wreck, she wants to learn the truth. The wreck she examines has different levels of meaning, referencing to the neglected, unexamined inner lives of women, or perhaps to civilization itself, ruined by false ideas and stereotypes about gender and gender roles. The journey is about to take is both external and internal, since she is also journeying into the depths of her own psyche and, symbolically, into history and society.

The ship, which lays on the bottom of the ocean floor represents the suppressed views of women which could have been avoided if society would have been used properly instead of being left alone, submerged. There is a great amount of pressure placed on women, although the hope is for that to diminish into nonexistence. The wreck functions as a metaphor of the history of all women who have found themselves restricted under the pressure, it is very important for women to create their own identity, not that of which others believe. The speaker attempts to not only define herself, but to change history so that the future is not a product of repeating itself. Searching for the truth that so many seek to obtain, she continuous on the journey although she recognizes she cannot control what she may find. As the speaker arrives at the wreck and imagines herself as a mermaid that is androgynous, taking both female and male form.

Finally, as the poem concludes, there is a new sense of self-awareness. The speaker has transformed, and I was left with the feeling of empowerment. The end of the poem makes every reader conscious of the negative consequences of blurring the female voices and that they way out of this trouble is women’s awareness of their situation. The book of myth was created by society, which distorts both men’s and women understands of themselves. “For Rich, it is the last time she tries to merge female and male characteristics within the same entity in her attempt to define female identify” (Cooper 113). The speaker did not find her name because she does not want to be a part of the myths as she does not want to be a part of the entrapment of illusions regarding identity and gender. By including “his” she is acknowledging that men have also created a false image. Just as the poem began, it ends with the reference to a “book of myths” she does not want to be a part of the entrapment of illusions regarding identity nor gender.


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