A Woman Mourned By Daughters: An Analysis
“A Woman Mourned by Daughters”, by Adrienne Rich, is a very descriptive
poem in which two women are speaking to their dead mother. There are several
parts to this poem starting from the when the mother dies, and moving gradually
backward to when the daughters
were young girls
It begins with the daughters sitting in their mothers kitchen, “mourning”
over their mothers death, only they aren't upset or crying (Lines 1-3). They are
“spent” (drained and tired) from all the pressure their mother put on them,
before and after she died.
The next section (Lines 4-10) is a description of their dead mother as a
persistent presence in their lives. They are so burdened by the power she still
carries over them, even though she is no longer living.
They proceed in speaking about her as an elderly woman, weak and frail, “
a straw blown on the bed” (Lines 11-14). The describe her on her death bed. “
Like a corpse pulled from the sea”.
In the fourth section (Lines 15-20) they discuss that what upsets them
now that she is gone, isn't the fact that she died, it is all the things that
she used to do to them. A knot forms in their throats (“what rises in our
throats like the food you prodded in”) as they think about how they used to be
After the mother dies, the daughters are left with several
responsibilities which are discussed in the next section (Lines 22-28). These
responsibilities are not ones which the daughters would be happy to take care of.
They are so hateful toward their mother and the problems she left are only a
burden to them. They feel that they are still being pushed around even after
she is dead. Even the thought of taking care
of their sick and dying father is
thought of as a chore instead of a blessing.
The final section of this poem (Lines 29-33) basically states that if
they do something, and it isn't exactly the way their mother would have wished
it done, they will be punished. They will feel the guilt from their mother,
from beyond the grave, if they do not do things the way she did them, or would
have wanted them done.
The author of this poem made the daughters the speaker and the mother
the auditor. In some ways it makes you feel sorry for the mother, yet in others
you feel sorry that the daughters went through all this and have to live with it
for the rest of their lives. It probably would have been written totally
different if it were written in the eyes of the dead mother as opposed to the