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English IV, Period 3

January 2018

A Flurry of
Feelings and Ferocity

Adrienne Rich’s poem “Storm Warnings”
reveals both its literal and metaphorical meanings through Rich’s extensive use
of poetic devices, concrete details, and organization. Literally, the poem
follows the onset of a storm as it nears the speaker’s home and threatens to
wreak havoc, while metaphorically, the poem follows the speaker’s emotions as a
storm rages within. The chronological order of the poem allows the speaker to
reveal the parallelism between two different situations: the environmental
distress occurring outside of the home and the emotional turmoil in the
speaker’s heart represented by the stormy weather. The use of concrete details
further enhances the poem’s meaning by providing deeper insight on the
speaker’s actions and creating different tones.

The four stanzas of the poem are
important to the understanding of the poem’s literal and figurative meaning
because they represent different stages of both the storm outside as well as
the storm within the speaker, and the speaker’s reactions as the storm comes
increasingly closer . The first stanza describes the onset of a literal storm:
the “glass falling all the afternoon” indicates a barometer’s pressure
decreasing, while the “boughs straining against the sky” indicate high wind
speeds typical of an approaching storm, which creates a dark and restless mood
for the poem (“Close Reading”). The imagery of the speaker “walking from window
to closed window” creates an air of unease, and allows the poem to convey the
speaker’s insecurity and anxiousness as the storm arrives. The first stanza not
only exposes the oncoming literal storm, but also represents the deeply
troubling internal conflict the speaker is experiencing. The second and third
stanzas move on to describe the speaker’s feelings of helplessness towards the
two uncontrollable forces of natural disaster and internal conflict, and
reinforce the speaker’s panic as they realize there is no escape from either storm
(Brown). Both the external and internal storms are inevitable “regardless of
prediction,” and even “clocks and weatherglasses” are not “proofs against the
wind,” meaning no matter how many “storm warnings” one receives, the unescapable
truth is that the storm will eventually hit. Although these weather instruments
provide awareness of the impeding storm, they don’t have the power to stop the
storm, just as a clock doesn’t have the power to stop time from flowing (“Close
Reading”). The line “Weather abroad and weather in the heart alike come on/regardless
of prediction” is purposefully placed in the center of the poem, solidifying
the central idea that there is no escape from the oncoming storm. At this point
in the poem, the speaker finally comes to terms with the fact that they can do
nothing but prepare to let the storm pass. The poem reaches a climax, and
shifts views from a literal description of a storm to a more metaphoric
approach. The tone of the poem shifts from urgent and restless to accepting and
submissive, showing how the speaker is accepting the fact that internal and
external stresses will continue to affect their life, and all they can do is
wait for the troubles to blow over. The last line of the third stanza, “We can
only close the shutters,” highlights the speaker’s vulnerability and weakness
towards the inevitable. The speaker “draws the curtains” and “sets a match”
to prepare for the impeding battle, stating that these measures are their “sole
defense against the season,” demonstrating the speaker’s helplessness against
the storm. This line has a double meaning, as “sole defense” can refer to a
defense against the external environment, and can also refer to a soul defense against their inner struggles
and emotional distress (Brown). The last two lines of the poem shift from first
person to second person, transforming the storm from a personal experience to a
generalized conclusion that affects an entire community of individuals “who
live in troubled regions.” They serve to connect the two metaphors together,
uniting the storm “abroad” and “in the heart” through a common conclusion the
speaker has reached about both.

Throughout the poem, the weather serves
as an extended metaphor for both the “weather abroad” and the “weather in the
heart,” showing how both go through similar courses and have parallel effects
on the environment and on people. In order to effectively compare the external
and internal storms, the poem uses the same symbol of weather as a metaphor for
both, making it easier to draw the parallel between the poem’s literal and
metaphorical meanings (“Close Reading”). The personification of weather in the
lines “gray unrest is moving across the land” and “air moves inward towards
silent core of waiting” humanize nature and the disaster it sometimes brings
upon itself, symbolizing the wounds emotions can bring onto a person. At the
same 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 yet
uncontrollable force, similar to a storm of emotions (“Close Reading”).

Rich employs a myriad of poetic devices
and concrete details to strengthen the poem’s meaning by providing a deeper
perception into the speaker’s actions and shifting attitude. The poem uses descriptive
dark imagery throughout, helping to emphasize the helplessness of the speaker.
Words such as “only” and “sole” underline the speaker’s weakness and inability
to control their surroundings and emotions (“Close Reading”). Rich employs the
use of unassertive and weak verbs throughout the poem such as “falling,”
“walking,” “watching,” “waiting,” “foreseeing,” “averting,” and “close” in
order to define the speaker’s submissiveness and insecurity, adding to the
storm’s overwhelming impression (“Close Reading”). Alliteration of ‘w’ sounds
and sibilance throughout the poem create an air of turbulence by providing
windy sound effects that diminish as the speaker realizes that there is nothing
that can be done to stop the storm and that the only action within their power
is settling in to watch the storm move past (Brown). The poem begins with a
dense concentration of the ‘w’ and ‘s’ sounds and gradually decreases the
amount, signifying the overwhelming turbulence the speaker feels towards the
storm at the beginning and their decreasing anxiety as they begin to put up their
“defense” against the storm. The abundant and detailed descriptions Rich
provides enhance the poem by revealing the speaker’s inner emotions, adding to
the tone and ambiance of the poem.

The concrete details and poem
organization of “Storm Warnings” help draw attention towards the duality of the
poem’s literal and metaphorical meanings, revealing that the title itself is
representative of two different storms: a literal storm and the storm within
one’s heart. The poem unfolds chronologically with extensive concrete
detailing, which allows the reader to draw parallels between the two different
storms and connect them to the speaker’s experience and conclusion. “Storm
Warnings” offers more than just beautiful poetic prose; it offers insight and powerful
poetic language only Adrienne Rich could produce, and expresses the human
experience by describing human hardships and emotions that come with the
ability to analyze and think critically about one’s situation.







Works Cited
and/or Consulted

Jerry. AP Literature and Composition.
Arkansas State University, 2013,

 “Close Reading of Adrienne Rich’s ‘Storm