of an illegitimate voice
It has ceased to hear itself, therefore
it asks itself
How do I exist?” – Adrienne Rich
The most striking pattern of note from this passage is the repetition of the word “it” in the second stanza. The word choice of “it” rather than “he” or “she” indicates that the scream is coming from someone that feels inhuman – inhuman because of their (or “it”) inability to be heard not only by others, but also hear themselves. Despite not being able to be heard, the fact that Lorde serves as this being’s voice is significant to note as well. Lorde, in The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power notes the oppression of minority women that has resulted from the “exclusively European-American male tradition” (Lorde, 1978, 91). By serving as the voice of what presumably is a minority woman who doesn’t feel human, Rich is breaking down the doorframe of that male tradition. Rich not only hears this voice, she hears it as a scream. She serves, essentially, as a messenger for all who feel inhuman due to their inability to be heard – not just this particular being.
In terms of Rich’s poem overall, she touches on a number of key themes – one of which is the power of silence. In an earlier poem, she makes a key distinction. She writes about the difference between choosing to be silent and being silenced. There is a certain power associated with that choice – this can be seen in the real world with the significance of silent protests. Somehow, these silent protest seem more effective and powerful than louder, more outspoken forms of protest.