AudreyNguyenMrs.CreelmanAP/GTEnglish IV, Period 327January 2018A Flurry ofFeelings and FerocityAdrienne Rich’s poem “Storm Warnings”reveals both its literal and metaphorical meanings through Rich’s extensive useof poetic devices, concrete details, and organization. Literally, the poemfollows the onset of a storm as it nears the speaker’s home and threatens towreak havoc, while metaphorically, the poem follows the speaker’s emotions as astorm rages within. The chronological order of the poem allows the speaker toreveal the parallelism between two different situations: the environmentaldistress occurring outside of the home and the emotional turmoil in thespeaker’s heart represented by the stormy weather.
The use of concrete detailsfurther enhances the poem’s meaning by providing deeper insight on thespeaker’s actions and creating different tones.The four stanzas of the poem areimportant to the understanding of the poem’s literal and figurative meaningbecause they represent different stages of both the storm outside as well asthe storm within the speaker, and the speaker’s reactions as the storm comesincreasingly closer . The first stanza describes the onset of a literal storm:the “glass falling all the afternoon” indicates a barometer’s pressuredecreasing, while the “boughs straining against the sky” indicate high windspeeds typical of an approaching storm, which creates a dark and restless moodfor the poem (“Close Reading”). The imagery of the speaker “walking from windowto closed window” creates an air of unease, and allows the poem to convey thespeaker’s insecurity and anxiousness as the storm arrives. The first stanza notonly exposes the oncoming literal storm, but also represents the deeplytroubling internal conflict the speaker is experiencing.
The second and thirdstanzas move on to describe the speaker’s feelings of helplessness towards thetwo uncontrollable forces of natural disaster and internal conflict, andreinforce the speaker’s panic as they realize there is no escape from either storm(Brown). Both the external and internal storms are inevitable “regardless ofprediction,” and even “clocks and weatherglasses” are not “proofs against thewind,” meaning no matter how many “storm warnings” one receives, the unescapabletruth is that the storm will eventually hit. Although these weather instrumentsprovide awareness of the impeding storm, they don’t have the power to stop thestorm, just as a clock doesn’t have the power to stop time from flowing (“CloseReading”). The line “Weather abroad and weather in the heart alike come on/regardlessof prediction” is purposefully placed in the center of the poem, solidifyingthe central idea that there is no escape from the oncoming storm. At this pointin the poem, the speaker finally comes to terms with the fact that they can donothing but prepare to let the storm pass.
The poem reaches a climax, andshifts views from a literal description of a storm to a more metaphoricapproach. The tone of the poem shifts from urgent and restless to accepting andsubmissive, showing how the speaker is accepting the fact that internal andexternal stresses will continue to affect their life, and all they can do iswait for the troubles to blow over. The last line of the third stanza, “We canonly close the shutters,” highlights the speaker’s vulnerability and weaknesstowards the inevitable. The speaker “draws the curtains” and “sets a match”to prepare for the impeding battle, stating that these measures are their “soledefense against the season,” demonstrating the speaker’s helplessness againstthe storm.
This line has a double meaning, as “sole defense” can refer to adefense against the external environment, and can also refer to a soul defense against their inner strugglesand emotional distress (Brown). The last two lines of the poem shift from firstperson to second person, transforming the storm from a personal experience to ageneralized conclusion that affects an entire community of individuals “wholive in troubled regions.” They serve to connect the two metaphors together,uniting the storm “abroad” and “in the heart” through a common conclusion thespeaker has reached about both.Throughout the poem, the weather servesas an extended metaphor for both the “weather abroad” and the “weather in theheart,” showing how both go through similar courses and have parallel effectson the environment and on people.
In order to effectively compare the externaland internal storms, the poem uses the same symbol of weather as a metaphor forboth, making it easier to draw the parallel between the poem’s literal andmetaphorical meanings (“Close Reading”). The personification of weather in thelines “gray unrest is moving across the land” and “air moves inward towardssilent core of waiting” humanize nature and the disaster it sometimes bringsupon itself, symbolizing the wounds emotions can bring onto a person. At thesame time, the poem describes the storm as a “zone” and a “polar realm,”showing that the storm is mysterious and eerie, but is also a predictable yetuncontrollable force, similar to a storm of emotions (“Close Reading”).Rich employs a myriad of poetic devicesand concrete details to strengthen the poem’s meaning by providing a deeperperception into the speaker’s actions and shifting attitude. The poem uses descriptivedark imagery throughout, helping to emphasize the helplessness of the speaker.Words such as “only” and “sole” underline the speaker’s weakness and inabilityto control their surroundings and emotions (“Close Reading”). Rich employs theuse of unassertive and weak verbs throughout the poem such as “falling,””walking,” “watching,” “waiting,” “foreseeing,” “averting,” and “close” inorder to define the speaker’s submissiveness and insecurity, adding to thestorm’s overwhelming impression (“Close Reading”).
Alliteration of ‘w’ soundsand sibilance throughout the poem create an air of turbulence by providingwindy sound effects that diminish as the speaker realizes that there is nothingthat can be done to stop the storm and that the only action within their poweris settling in to watch the storm move past (Brown). The poem begins with adense concentration of the ‘w’ and ‘s’ sounds and gradually decreases theamount, signifying the overwhelming turbulence the speaker feels towards thestorm at the beginning and their decreasing anxiety as they begin to put up their”defense” against the storm. The abundant and detailed descriptions Richprovides enhance the poem by revealing the speaker’s inner emotions, adding tothe tone and ambiance of the poem.
The concrete details and poemorganization of “Storm Warnings” help draw attention towards the duality of thepoem’s literal and metaphorical meanings, revealing that the title itself isrepresentative of two different storms: a literal storm and the storm withinone’s heart. The poem unfolds chronologically with extensive concretedetailing, which allows the reader to draw parallels between the two differentstorms and connect them to the speaker’s experience and conclusion. “StormWarnings” offers more than just beautiful poetic prose; it offers insight and powerfulpoetic language only Adrienne Rich could produce, and expresses the humanexperience by describing human hardships and emotions that come with theability to analyze and think critically about one’s situation. Works Citedand/or ConsultedBrown,Jerry.
AP Literature and Composition.Arkansas State University, 2013, jerrywbrown.com/teacherfiles/Arkansas%20Literature%202013.pdf.
“Close Reading of Adrienne Rich’s ‘StormWarnings.'” 1.cdn.edl.io/j2tsJ5MouyfH5FXP6DJ5aljNab3Y6zRoChz8ISFryoiXTa4m.