Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law’ by Adrienne Rich

The beginning of the third millennium can be characterized by strengthening of the position of women in the society. Nowadays females play important roles on every level of the contemporary life. However, no more than 50 years ago women only started acknowledging that they could be something more than housekeepers. Some women came to such understanding a bit earlier and started encouraging the rest of the females to struggle for equality with men. Of course, the equality women of 1950s were striving for was not confined to equal voting rights, but should be considered in some larger context. Women wanted to prove that they were equal to men in everything: mental and physical abilities, creativity and common sense. This process can be traced in the famous poem by Adrienne Rich “Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law”. The poem reveals the major fears and hopes of females of that period. In fact, it is a snapshot of female enlightenment which happened in the middle of the 20th century.

Get your customized and 100% plagiarism-free paper on any subject done
with 15% off on your first order

“Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law” is Rich’s first poem which explores the issue of women’s self-identity (Martin 168). In this poem Rich articulates her ideas about the real place of females in the society. However, before considering the poem it is necessary to depict peculiarities of that period to understand the root of the problem, so to speak. In the middle of the twentieth century the roles of males and females were distinctly identified: men developed everything in the world and women created the necessary background for males’ successful functioning. In other words, females were to fulfill their household activities and bring up their children. It is necessary to point out that many females were quite satisfied with their roles and believed the universal truth they had been taught since their childhood: girls should become good wives and mothers. Of course, there were some examples of women fulfilling male tasks, but those were exceptions. In fact, there can be no equality when there is such differentiation: male or female tasks. Moreover, those brave pioneers had to come up against various obstacles created by stereotypes. Nevertheless, some women felt that they could do something more than that. Remarkably, females only started feeling that; the understanding will come a bit later.

Thus, in “Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law” Rich portrayed the “process of conscious evolution” which took place in her mind and in the minds of the majority of women (Langdell 42). In her poem Rich provides a common image of a woman, ideal woman of that period: a beautiful and decent female who has certain duties and cherishes definite values. It is also stressed that women have to follow many rules not only in their duties but even in the way they look: they need to follow laws of the contemporary fashion and do all those thousands of tiny female activities which are prescribed by the society. However, these ideal women, though fulfilling some casual duties of making males’ life more pleasant, for instance, playing piano, become different. Their minds start “moldering like wedding-cake” under the pressure of useless knowledge and experiences, under the burden of rules and everyday activities (Rich). Notably, Rich uses images which come from women’s everyday life which is another proof that females were confined to their households. Nevertheless, some angels emerge to open women’s eyes. These angels suggest new ideas: to stop being patient and rebel. It is also noteworthy that angels suggest that every woman should think of her own salvation, since it is impossible that all women become free. Thus, Rich does not really believe in complete equality herself. Nevertheless, even such revolutionary ideas became a good start.

It is necessary to point out that, first, Rich takes the new ideas for “angels” who come for good, but soon these new ideas become a kind of torture: “a thinking woman sleeps with monsters” since it is very hard to see the unfairness of life and not to be able to change it (Rich). The truth that angels gave haunts women who can see it. These thinking women become restless and unhappy, they have to live in fear. The following lines reveal the new perception of womanhood:

Poised, trembling and unsatisfied, before
an unlocked door, that cage of cages,
tell us, you bird, you tragical machine –
is this fertillisante douleur? Pinned down
by love, for you the only natural action… (Rich)

Females are locked in the cages of their households and their love. In fact, love becomes the crucial factor which keeps them inside those cages since women do everything in the name of love, even bury their inclinations to become free and significant. They praise men they love, who enjoy the leading roles in their lives. Females follow the rules but they are already “unsatisfied” (Rich). They feel that they should change and Rich suggests that it is time to resist (or at least try to rebel) come what may.

Our academic experts can deliver a custom essay specifically for you
with 15% off for your first order

Unfortunately, women had many obstacles on their way to gender equality. Rich contemplates that t is hard to resist such established gender norms. For instance, in the poem women who started breaking the rules were condemned: one of such females was “labeled harpy, shrew and whore” (Rich). Noteworthy, Rich admits that even those brave women do not see the way out and know exactly what to do, they only “partly understood”. Moreover, Rich insists that very powerful forces are against females since even time is a male who prevents women from complete and truthful independence. The time can be regarded in two perspectives. First, it is the time which passes and makes women older, with every following year making women more amorphous. On the other hand, the time is also the entire epoch which is built on certain rules which cannot be abolished.

However, Rich suggests possible solution, she can see possible ally. This supporter is history herself who is coming to help females in their struggle for equality. Thus, Rich understands that history can change everything, and is actually helping females to understand their potential. In spite of that specific state of females’ self-identity when they only could dream of what they could become and despite their hopes and inclinations used to stir, women still could struggle for their place in the society. Of course, Rich does not suggest definite path to go to obtain the necessary freedom, but she declares that it is time to do something. She is confident that there is no room for mere dreaming of something better: “Sigh no more, ladies” (Rich). The poem encourages females to act.

Admittedly, the poem is full of metaphors, allusions and allegories, rather than definite suggestions. However, these poetic tools are not perceived as mere dreams and fantasies. It is possible to state that the poem was a poetic reflection of emotions of females living in that society. Women’s deepest fears and longings obtained quite specific form. On one hand, the first part of the poem contains certain images which are realistic and familiar to every girl or women. So, females do not just read the lines, they recognize themselves. They understand that it is not just a poem it is the reflection of their own thoughts. On the other hand, the end of the poem is quite a vigorous call to act. This part encourages women to change their lives since the history herself is on their sides, since it is natural to admit that genders are equal.

Thus, it is necessary to point out that the poem “Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law” by Adrienne Rich was one of the first signs that gender norms would change soon. The poem reflects the ideas of many women who are tired to play secondary roles in the society. In the middle of the twentieth century women came to understanding that they can and should do much more than keeping their houses clean. Such poems as “Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law” were those bricks which formed consciousness of females. Luckily, women considered Rich’s statements that the history was on their side. So, at the moment people can enjoy the benefits of equal position of genders. There can be no doubt that people of all genders, ages and nations should try to make their contribution into the development of humanity.

Works Cited

Langdell, Cheri Colby. Adrienne Rich: The Moment of Change. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004.

We’ll deliver a high-quality academic paper tailored to your requirements

Martin, Wendy. An American Triptych: Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich. Chapel Hill: UNC Press Books, 1984.

Rich, Adrienne. “Snapshots of a Daughter-In-Law”. American Poems, 2003. Web.

Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law’ by Adrienne Rich
The following paper on Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law’ by Adrienne Rich was written by a student and can be used for your research or references. Make sure to cite it accordingly if you wish to use it.
Removal Request
The copyright owner of this paper can request its removal from this website if they don’t want it published anymore.
Request Removal

Cite this paper

Select a referencing style


YourDissertation. (2021, December 10). Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law' by Adrienne Rich. Retrieved from

Work Cited

"Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law' by Adrienne Rich." YourDissertation, 10 Dec. 2021,

1. YourDissertation. "Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law' by Adrienne Rich." December 10, 2021.


YourDissertation. "Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law' by Adrienne Rich." December 10, 2021.


YourDissertation. 2021. "Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law' by Adrienne Rich." December 10, 2021.


YourDissertation. (2021) 'Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law' by Adrienne Rich'. 10 December.

Click to copy