Amnesia by Adrienne Rich: Summary and Analysis

The poem 'Amnesia' by Adrienne Rich is a feminist poem with the problem of amnesia that every woman suffers in a patriarchal society. Amnesia is the loss of memory due to certain injury or shock or unpleasant experience. But, in the poem Amnesia refers to an unpleasant experience of women who were tortured in a patriarchal society by the males and due to the continuous domination of the males, the women are forced to have amnesia.

Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

The speaker of the poem is a female whose voice is unheard and suppressed. The speaker observes the outer world and sees how her son is detached from her by the so-called patriarchal culture. Every mother leaves her son in the outer world with the aim of making him experienced and independent person but the reality is that he gets corrupted by the patriarchal culture and is detached from the mother. This is the sad experience of every mother in the patriarchal society and the poem deals with the same issue. Thus, a poem is about all the mothers or women and their long heritage of suppression in a patriarchal society.

The poem is also a critique of the American dream that has brought fragmentation in American culture in the name of success in the life of an individual. The aim of the American dream has distanced man from man and also has split the man from his own self. Due to this, familial relationship, integrity, and happiness are no longer available in American society. The poem makes the reference of an American film “Citizen Kane”. The allusion of the snow scene from the film stands for the patriarchal wall that separates the mother from her son. The mother loses her son to the patriarchal authority which she can never fight against. She is only an innocent female to observe all the cruel and inhuman acts of man against woman. As long as the son is in the house with the mother, he is her own, but once the outsider invaded her domestic territory, she is helpless. This leads the state of amnesia that every woman suffers from. In the poem ‘Amnesia’, the poet appeals female readers not to be the patient of amnesia. The poet further argues that the females should not forget their past, otherwise they will lose their identity.