Gretel in Darkness

Gretel in Darkness Study Guide

"Gretel in Darkness" is a 1975 poem by the American poet Louise Glück, exploring themes of trauma and justice through a retelling of the well-known fairytale "Hansel and Gretel." It was first published in Glück's collection The House on the Marshland.

Over the course of four free-verse sextets, the poem enters the perspective of the young girl at the center of the "Hansel and Gretel" tale, speculating about and describing her emotions after the familiar story's ending. Glück portrays the speaker as guilt-ridden, traumatized, and deeply lonely. While the poem does not follow a regular rhyme scheme or meter, its heavy use of alliteration, assonance, and slant rhyme create sound-based repetition, in some cases onomatopoetically evoking the threatening sounds that the speaker remembers from her past. The poem also engages with feminist themes, echoing a broader movement for gender equality occurring in the 1970s: the speaker, who lives with male family members, feels invalidated and upset by their denial of the past and their lack of emotional engagement.