Storm Warnings by Adrienne Rich Uses Unique Style to Reveal Metaphorical Meanings

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Adrienne Rich, a renowned confessional poet, uses a unique structural style in her poem, Storm Warnings, to reveal both literal and metaphorical meanings. The poem’s structure mirrors the external storm occurring outside and allows the speaker to explore her internal conflict in an organized manner. As the speaker becomes aware of the approaching storm, she seeks shelter to protect herself and lets the storm pass. This parallels the internal and metaphorical storm, symbolizing the speaker’s inner conflict. The speaker acknowledges the impending conflict, finds solace and comfort, and ultimately learns to embrace and move forward with it. Therefore, the poem’s structure directly corresponds to the progression of the internal storm. Both the external and internal storms teach the speaker that she cannot prevent or halt a storm, regardless of how many warnings she receives. She must instead find refuge for her physical self and her soul within.

The sequence of the poem’s stanzas may not seem important, but the four sestets hold great significance. The progression of the storm follows a steady course. According to Rich, throughout the afternoon, the barometer drops and winds grow stronger above. An unsettling grayness spreads across the land and tree branches strain against the sky. The external storm persists all day with clouds still gathering, and the rain shows no signs of ceasing. Hence, the initial stanza conveys a warning that a more severe storm is yet to come, far worse than anticipated by the speaker. As the storm reaches its peak in the second and third stanzas, the speaker is compelled to seek shelter within, finding solace in a quiet center of anticipation to shield herself from the raging winds. In the final stanza, as the sky turns black, the speaker closes the curtains and lights candles enclosed in glass.

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a way to settle in for the long course the storm has yet to take. It is also here that the speaker accepts the fact that storms will come and that sheltering yourself and allowing the storm to pass… is our sole defense against the season …. The advancement of the storm takes a beginning to end path, which allows the reader to see that the specific structure and organization of the stanzas is greatly important. Any other order would disrupt the way in which it parallels the symbolic and metaphoric meaning and of the poem.

The external meanings of the poem can also be explained by discussing its structure. The speaker can sense the approaching storm as she walks from one closed window to another, observing how the boughs strain against the sky. Moreover, the speaker reflects that no matter what predictions may be made about the weather, it will come on regardless. The speaker recognizes that time in our hands does not mean control over time, just like shattered fragments of an instrument cannot predict the rising wind. We can only close the shutters when the wind rises. Even though there might be technological instruments to forecast storms, they are no better than broken instruments at predicting them. Although a storm may give warning signs like dark clouds and thunder, its timing cannot be changed or stopped. The storm must proceed as it will, and the speaker understands that she must seek refuge and protection because these are the actions adopted by those who live in troubled regions.

The speaker knows how to protect herself from the outer storm by harboring her natural defenses.

The structure of the poem mirrors both its outward and literal meanings and its inner and metaphorical purpose. The speaker grapples with an intense internal conflict, symbolized by the storm raging outside, which she cannot control or predict. In the first stanza, the speaker acknowledges the warning signs of the internal storm and moves away from her comfortable chair to prepare for the impending turmoil, just as she did for the external storm. The strained branches against the sky represent the speaker’s personal struggle against her specific conflict, as she feels the force of the internal storm just as the branches sway in the wind. In the second stanza, the speaker realizes her lack of preparedness for the sudden eruption of the storm, noting how time has traveled purposefully into her hidden domain within herself. This polar realm provides her with a sense of security where she can sort out her thoughts and overcome her inner conflict. The speaker recognizes that both external and internal storms approach simultaneously.

She acknowledges that predicting a conflict cannot prevent it, and that internal and external conflicts are essentially the same in this regard. The third stanza suggests that a conflict cannot be foreseen or altered by clocks or weatherglasses. Like external conflicts, internal conflicts cannot be fully anticipated or controlled from beginning to end. . . . the wind will rise, / We can only close the shutters (20-21). Internal conflicts cannot be halted, only endured. Finally, the speaker embraces the storm as she remarks, I draw the curtains as the sky goes black / And set a match to candles sheathed in glass ….

Candles a! re symbolic for rays of hope, and the speaker hopes to have enough strength to withstand the harsh nature of the storm. She protects herself from the storm, as well as the candles with the glass. The storm is forever nearby, evident when she states, Against the keyhole draught, the insistent whine / Of weather through the unsealed aperture. The speaker tries to close everything up in protection from her own storm, but there is still a small reminder that leaks through. Her… sole defense against the season … is to guard herself as much as possible and to not let the conflict overcome her like the external storm overtakes nature. She has understood that all she can do is remember what she has, . . . learned to do… in troubled regions, and that is to seek shelter for her soul.

The poem’s structure and exterior meanings are clearly related to its internal metaphoric meanings. While a violent storm rages outside, a different storm is happening inside the speaker’s heart and soul. By heeding the warnings of the storm, the speaker prepared herself as much as possible to address the inner conflict. After the storm passed, she was able to connect with her psyche. Instead of attempting to predict, change, or stop the storm, both the speaker and reader understand that it is best to let the storm proceed naturally to avoid further conflict.

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Storm Warnings by Adrienne Rich Uses Unique Style to Reveal Metaphorical Meanings. (2023, Feb 25). Retrieved from

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