Adrienne Rich's Poetry and Prose Characters

Adrienne Rich's Poetry and Prose Character List

The Diver

"Diving Into the Wreck" is an extended metaphor telling the journey of one character, the diver, who is ostensibly a woman. As she prepares for the journey below the surface, the diver dresses in the "body-armor of black rubber/ the absurd flippers/ the grave and awkward mask" (ll. 5-7). She is armed with only a camera and knife as she descends into the unknown.

The diver's unconscious is symbolized by the ocean below, and the submerged wreck she is seeking is a wreck of self. In this way, the diver's unconscious is inhabited by her true self, the self she has always been. As she comes face to face with the others "who have always lived here" (ll. 46-47), the diver must confront the effects of patriarchal culture on the self. Later, as she circles the hold, she encounters a merman, but the speaker announces "I am she: I am he" (ll. 77), thus signifying the masculine elements of the self, a manifestation of the Jungian concepts that inform the poem, and the notion of the individuated self, which contains both masculine and feminine designations in the psyche. The colon used to separate the two clauses implies equanimity and connection between the two creatures, their half-fish, half-human bodies likewise reinforcing an eco-feminine connection between the earth, the water element and all of the human divers that will enter the “deep element” of the submerged self.

Toward the last few stanzas, the speaker's interior monologue shifts to the use of collective, rather than singular pronouns, and the diver addresses all women, extending a call to explore their own inner selves, and confront their own wrecks. The poem ends as the diver again references the "book of myths" from the poem's first stanza (li. 1), declaring it is a book "in which our names do not appear," (ll. 93-94) thus signifying the journey is complete, and the self-reclaimed from the bonds of culture and the pressures of patriarchal society.

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