Have you ever been in a situation where you had something horrible happen in your life that you needed to do something about, but in order to do something about it, you had to confront the problem and that caused you pain and more troubles? I believe that to be the underlying conflict in Adrienne Rich’s “Rape”. The main character who the speaker is talking to first is a woman who has been sexually violated. She is a victim of a heinous and very private, embarrassing crime. The officer that she has reported her situation to is a policeman who patrols her area and who her family knows and trust. Her family is very close to this officer, for “he comes from your block, grew up with your brothers.2” She doesn’t know him that well though, which makes her telling him about the incident that much more painful and uncomfortable. She gives him all the details of the crime and about her assailant. She has the idea that the cop may have been her rapist.
The woman has a certain bit of suspicion about the officer, but she is not sure. “Rape” is a poem about a woman who is reporting a case of rape to a policeman who may just be the criminal responsible for the offense himself. The violated woman isn’t convinced that the policeman is the rapist, but the speaker defiantly suspects him. The rape victim knows very little about the criminal in question, so the speaker tells the reader about the incident, the evidence, and about enough facts to let them come up with there own suspect. The first statement made by the speaker is “There is a cop who is both prowler and father.1” When he says “prowler” the reader automatically considers the officer to be a suspect, even before any background is given on him. This is a very important line in the poem. It expresses that the policeman is both a prowler and a father figure.
He is suppose to be an ally against crime and problems on his beat. The role of a policeman is to protect the innocent from criminals and evils. But who protects you when officers of the law are corrupt and are involved in unlawful actions? There is also another line in this paragraph that the reader could interpret to be incriminating. The speaker says the “You hardly know him in his boots and silver badge, on horseback, one hand touching his gun.4-5” Since she doesn’t know him that well anyway, maybe instead of seeing him as an officer of the law, she sees him as her assailant. The middle few stanza get a little more confusing. The second stanza tells of how intimidating and powerful the policeman is.
The third stanza is where the woman takes her problems and concerns to the officer. The forth stanza is quite intriguing. It starts off with a description the cop’s eyes, a very soothing image. Its the last verse of this stanza that takes a turn of suspicion against the officer. The thought of the “the hysteria in your voice pleases him best20” makes the reader believe that he is the rapist, a person who would enjoy such a thing. The last stanza contains some good closing thoughts. It is also interesting because it sounds like the speaker changes who he is addressing. This is obvious in the first line of this stanza when the speaker says “He has access to the machinery that could get you put away.26” The woman wouldn’t get put away, for she hasn’t done anything wrong. The speaker is now talking to the rapist. The speaker later talks about what the rapist says as being “like a portrait of your confessor.29”
In these latter moments of this poem, maybe the woman is unsure of who violated her. “Rape”, by Adrienne Rich, is a poem about a woman who was violated. At first the reader suspects the policeman as her rapist, then it seems like she suspects someone else. vAfter writing this paper, I come up with another possible theory. I believe that no one she knows is her rapist, she just sees all males as possible rapist and feels scared and threatened by them.