Snapshots of a Daughter-in-law by Adrienne Rich: Introduction

Snapshots of a Daughter-in-law is a feminist poem depicting a woman of the period of transition, especially the sixties and the seventies, when women had become conscious of the many restriction and burdens upon them imposed by the male-dominated society, family, culture and literature, but where not yet able to overcome the limitations; the result, both in reality and in this poem, is an unbearable anxiety.

Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

Rich wrote the present poem over a period of two years when she herself was married to a Harvard economist and was a young mother with three children like the daughter-in-law in the poem. So she herself was living with in patriarchal structures that constrained a woman’s intellect. The speaker in the poem sees herself as a daughter-in-law without a personal identity of dignity, or as a person who exists in relation to other people and structures. That is why she is aggressive due to her frustrations and anxiety.

Snapshots of a Daughter- in-law is a dramatic monologue. This title poem, written during 1958 to 1960, explores the depression of many middle class women in the 1950s for whom success was defined by the feminine mystique, the “sweetly laughing; sweetly singing” woman who must attract and hold a man who cares for her, that is, “takes care of her”. Rich laments the waste of energy in a society that values women not for experience but for beauty. The dependent women were caught up in anxiety, just as the independent women were hounded by guilt and fear of being unfeminine; as in the case of the present daughter-in-law anger was denied, converted into despair and even madness or suicide.

The sense of frustration, guilt and suppressed anger is major theme of this poem. This poem also expresses the conflict between her burden of enervating responsibilities and her creative side, as well as the need to free herself from poetic conventions of the past, and to express her new themes, by transcending not only male norms and expectations but also traditional female boundaries.

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Sharma, Kedar N. "Snapshots of a Daughter-in-law by Adrienne Rich: Introduction" BachelorandMaster, 17 Nov. 2013,