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Introduction and Theme

The poem tells us about the meeting of two strangers who share many things with each other.
There are certain reasons or perhaps things remain unsaid on part of the lovers for which they are
separated. The nature of the person is gentle and dangerous at the same time.
The poem also shows the hollowness of modern age, which has become materialistic and has
quite the religious ways and manners in the 20th century. All the things have come to be
questioned including religion in the 20th century. The angel is bright and dark at the same time.
The people are kind and poisonous. These contradictions are the results of the 20th century.
The poem shows a turn of events in the life of people. Those happy at one times become
different or sad at the other. Things favourable today become unfavourable tomorrow and people
take to new possessions. Adrienne Rich is a product of the 20-century that is fraught with
tensions and confusions. Man in this century is suffering and undergoing various battles. He is
enslaved by the materialistic system of the contemporary powers and he is in chains as W.B.
Yeats says,
Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the earth
And the remedy is the Second Coming of Christ to rid man of the contemporary chains of
materialism, faithlessness and bondage. Gabriel is the messenger thought whom Christ sends a
message to the poet.
A Critique of Gabriel: Lost and Found Love
The poem has another strand apart from its religious connotations. The second strand of the
poem is lost and found love. Gabriel also symbolises lost love, which is ultimately found. The
meeting between the poet and her previous lover starts in the following manner,
Here comes an angel one/ With a mans face young/ Shut-off the dark
Side of the moon turning to me/ And saying: I am the plumed/ Serpent the beast
With fangs of fire and a gentle/ Heart
She recognizes that he is her past lover who left her and now he has come in the shape of
an angel, though the inner reality of the lover is perceived by the poet and she does understand
how poisonous he was and could be. The Gabriel symbolizes a handsome man who comes to
meet his beloved (with inner bad intentions or a bad past) whom he left. The poet is so terrified
may be at her past experience with the lover when she says that
Hed want to kill me/ For using words to name him

The poet wants to remain busy in her studies and contemplation of the world affairs and political
and social tensions rather than get involved into his love affair again because he previously
deceived her. As she says,
I sit in the bare apartment/ Reading/ Words stream past me poetry/ Twentieth-century
rivers
Apart from his newborn love for the poet, the so-called angel is not behaving in a manner that a
lover should. Importance of communication cannot be denied in love but this lover is silent.
The angel is barely/ Speaking to me
Certainly, because of the 20th confused times and lack of assurance on part of the lover, the poet
cannot be blamed and especially she has been previously deceived by him or someone like him.
As she has lost faith in love, she finds all men equal. She says,
He stood or someone like him/ Salutations in gold-leaf/ Ribboning from his lips
Today again the hair streams/ To his shoulders
His physical appearance is as charming as it was before. The word Gabriel appears satirical and
ironical because he has come with a motive perhaps (of sexual nature) rather than true love. The
poet also feels mixed feelings of joy and terror. Rather than speaking or communicating love,
We glance miserably/ Across the room at each other/ Its true there are moments
Closer and closer together/ When words stick in my throat/ the art of love/the art of words
I get your message Gabriel/ Just will you stay looking/ Straight at me/ Awhile longer

At such times, the art of love is important because mere facial expressions perhaps dont work.
But in the present situation, the Gabriels attitude seems based on a sexual motive rather than real
love. He has come back with the motive of establishing physical relationship, but the poet
understands his games and satirically says,
I get your message Gabriel/ Just will you stay looking/ Straight at me/ Awhile longer
The poet understands the motives of men and she rejects seemingly beautiful and inwardly
serpent like Gabriel. He is a fake lover and not a true Gabriel who believes in revelations and
truth.
Conclusion
Gabriel is a thought-provoking poem which highlights current tensions in the 20th century and
the importance of truth and revelation for the salvation of this downtrodden humanity. Gabriel
becomes before us a symbol of divinity as well as a secular symbol of a young man with a
fantastic expression on the face wrapped with inward lust. Technically, Gabriel is a superior
poem which has used the image of Gabriel beautifully and its relevant to the changing conditions
of the world. The poem is based on a socio-political background. Though the atmosphere is that
of love poetry, the poem is remarkable for its ironical images. Taken in view the feminism of

those days the poem seems fit to be studied in the light of Richs passion for the liberation of
women.