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by Adrienne Rich

Power Theme of Science

Marie Curie was a super-famous scientist who discovered radium, polonium, and a whole bunch of other cool things. (For more details on her life, check out our "In A Nutshell" section.) She influenced generations and generations of scientists. Her influence on chemistry, physics, and science in general cannot be overstated. But Curie also died from radiation poisoning. Turns out that one of the risks of discovering and chillin' with radium is that it just might kill you. Does this make scientific discovery dangerous? You betcha. And that's just what Adrienne Rich is after in "Power."

Questions About Science

  1. What's the difference between the perspective on science that we get in the beginning of the poem and the perspective on science that we get in the rest of the poem (that's about Curie)? 
  2. Does the poem have any moral or ethical take on science? If so, where? And what is that take?
  3. If Marie could do it all again—do you think she would? In other words, was science worth the sacrifice?

Chew on This

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

Marie would totally do it all again. Scientific discovery is for the benefit of all of humankind; one small life doesn't matter.

Marie definitely learned her lesson by, you know, dying of radiation poisoning. There's no way she would die for science again.

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