* Site-Outage Notice: Our engineering elves will be tweaking the Shmoop site from Monday, December 22 10:00 PM PST to Tuesday, December 23 5:00 AM PST. The site will be unavailable during this time.
Dismiss
© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Diving into the Wreck

Diving into the Wreck

by Adrienne Rich

Gender Theme

This theme flashes by, but we think it's an important flash. Toward the end of "Diving into the Wreck," the speaker refers to herself or himself as a man and a woman. We often don't know the gender of the speaker of a poem. It's more unusual, though, for a poet to come out and directly confront us with that issue. This becomes one of the big turning points of the poem. Even though it's a little moment, it involves a lot of the other themes in the poem. It's certainly a big transformation, and it forces us to rethink the moments that came before it.

Questions About Gender

  1. Do you think this person is a man or a woman? What clues might there be? Does it bug you that we don't learn which one it is?
  2. In line 77, the speaker says: "I am she, I am he." What does the poet accomplish by switching the gender of the speaker like that?
  3. How would this poem be different if we knew the gender of the speaker from the beginning?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

When the speaker's gender changes, it forces us to give up our assumptions about who he or she might be. Even if we have decided in our heads, we have to rethink that idea by the end of the poem. This makes gender a central subject of this poem, instead of an issue that the reader can overlook.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...

Advertisement
Noodle's College Search
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement