The tone of the Adrienne Rich’s poem Women is rather somber. What is meant by this is that the narrator of the poem – the four sister, is observing her family (but not her real family because this poem reads as an allusion to the three fates of Greek mythology who sew or even the three weird sisters in Shakespeare’s MacBeth) and telling the reader details of what the woman is sewing. Since the narrator is part of the family of the observed the reader may make a conjecture that there is love in the speaker’s voice for these women. Indeed there seems to be a sadness for the first two sisters since they are trying to sew together what is broken but there is a satisfaction for the third sister who is not sewing her broken stockings but gazing out to see.
The metaphor of the poem has to do with fate. Indeed as mentioned before the three sisters are the three fates who sew in Greek mythology. One sews the past, the other the present and the third sews the future. If then the third sister is supposed to sewing the future but in Rich’s poem she is gazing far out to sea at the magma (for the sisters are sitting on obsidian and magma often erupts in the ocean) then the future fate of the narration tells of a destruction. However since the narrator says that the third sister is beautiful perhaps this destruction breeds a necessary change for the narrator as well as the third sister. Thus, the future is about change.
One symbol that is concurrent for each of the sisters is the act of sewing. The sisters are sewing things which are broken. The first sister is sewing a costume in which she will be a formation of nerves. The second sister is sewing a broken heart (which could mean that in the present the narrator has a broken heart). The third sister is sewing nothing thereby symbolizing a blank future, a future in which perhaps nothing needs to be mended or at least that the narrator does not desire to mend anything but to leave situations as they are instead of fixing them.
The poem is broken down into four stanzas, three lines each. It seems that Rich is using slant rhyme to meter the poem. In the first stanza she rhymes the stressed ‘I’ sound in ‘obsidian’ and ‘sitting’. This slant rhyme is continued in parts of the stanzas as is evident with the long ‘e’ sound in the third stanza with ‘entirely’ and ‘ease’. In all, Rich presents a poem in free verse paying little attention to traditional meter but playing around with slant rhyme and other forms of the poetic devices used by poets.