Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich, in my opinion, is written about the journey of a woman going deep inside her soul to find out her true identity and her role in life. With numerous multi meaning metaphors, the poem could be interpreted in various ways; however I believe Rich was experiencing herself changing through this challenging adventure.
The depth of vivid metaphors gives credit to Rich’s message in this poem, through such symbols like “the wreck”, “the book of myths”, “camera” and “knife.” The journey to discover one’s identity is like a dive to discover a shipwreck, dangerous, mysterious but fascinating. So many threats await down the deep level of the sea, yet the charming adventure raises the irresistible invitation into the unknown world where the woman may find her hidden self. She is afraid, she is uncertain about what lays ahead, therefore she prepares and arm herself, with knowledge, with weapons, with the brave expectation of new, great change she may go through:”First having read the book of myths,and loaded the camera,and checked the edge of the knife-blade…” (line 1-3)The wreck she is diving into is the patriarchal society where she is living in, her community, her family, her belief. To arm herself in this risky trip, she first read “the book of myths”, mastering the knowledge of the world around her, and questioning the truth behind those unrevealed myths.
This “book of myths” also comes from her life experiences, having encountered with situations where she cannot find the answer to matters in life, wonders no one could ever tell her, why her name among certain others “do not appear” in the book (line 93). Bringing all these questions on the way down the bottom of the sea where “the wreck” is, the woman equipped a “camera”, as though to capture every moment, every motion may occur in this adventure. She does not want to miss any detail of the air that “is blue and then/ it is bluer and then/ black…” (line 34-36), the mermaid and the merman she became, or “the drowned face always staring/ toward the sun” (line 64).
The camera is her open mind to let new ideas, new images, and new perceptions pouring into her mind, creating a new vision. The “knife blade”, on the other hand, is the protection from the harm in her dive to explore the wreck. It also is the weapon to cut through the damage, the wreck around her, the boundaries, and the limits society challenges her to get through. At the end of the poem, Rich does not declare whether the journey is right or wrong, she simply suggests everybody take their camera and knife and explore in the deep sea, to find their own self and mark their names in the book of myths.
Diving into the Wreck is where Adrienne Rich is reborn. Although to her it might be a treasure hidden under the deep blue water, she finally recognizes her importance and her desire despite the “book of myths” never included a female’s remark. She silently proclaims to rewrite the “book of myths”, as she and other females, will take the risk to venture and find their identities, their position in the history of the world.
Rich, Adrienne. Diving into the Wreck. Poems 1972-1972. Academy of American Poets. Sep 2 2009