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An Expliciation of “Prospective Immigrants Please Note”

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“Prospective Immigrants Please Note”, a poem by Adrienne Rich, helps one to ponder on the dual perspective, with the mother culture and the American ideals. Rich’s essential goal is for one to remember their families and origins.

First of all, the title, “Prospective Immigrants Please Note” implied an immigrant’s plea to enter into a foreign country. Upon reading the poem, though, I now see the title as represents differently.

Rich’s poem, claims either one leaves their land or simply stay where you’re at. “Either you will go through this door or you will not go through.”

“If you go through there is always the risk of remembering your name.” Remembering one’s name- the antithesis of assimilation to remember one’s name is to remember tribal affiliations, family, and origin. This was especially true for Jewish immigrants, who went from using the Hebraic construct “Yitzhak ben Ya`akov” to Isaac or even Ida Jacobs.

Perhaps the difficulty of adapting to a dual perspective with the mother culture and the American ideals is a conflict. “Things look at you doubly and you must look back and let them happen.”

“If you do not go through it is possible to live worthily”, implies, it isn’t necessary to go through the doors to live a fulfilled, complete life. To
maintain ones attitudes, and to hold your position first generation American Jews found if very difficult to live according to tradition; America gave the freedom to assimilate and most welcomed it. Following the Mosaic Laws was the norm and much easier in the European ghettos.

The Rabbis taught to immigrate to America was to cease being Jewish, since their families would assimilate and fade away in a few generations. Many, families stayed in Europe because of this, and often only part of the family would come over. This strikes me as another of her poems heavily influenced by the Holocaust – people stayed behind so they wouldn’t cease to exist as Jews, and were annihilated. “But much will blind you, much will evade you, at what cost who knows?”

The Metaphor of a door is intensely powerful; and the idea of doors I haven’t opened, brushed past on my way to somewhere else haunts me, always. I don’t know that what I say here is meaningful or insightful, or anything spectacular in any way, but I do know this poem has been one that so resonates with me that it seems a crime to not say something… and I don not want to brush past that door.

I have read this poem a number of times and I believe this poem is about immigrants and how they have a choice to leave their country or not. I believe “The door makes no promises” means nobody is going to promise you that you are going to have a wonderful, joyous life in the new country, and it is only a door, to go through or not to go through.

Re-examining the title, “Prospective Immigrants Please Note” it become clear that the poem addresses “immigrants” to wisely assess the decision of going into another country or staying where their at. The poet is talking to her Jewish community telling them if you leave your country, your not going to forget what happened and if you decide not to go through the door you can still live a fulfilled life. Upon deciding not to leave the country all that is require is maintaining you attitude, stand your ground, die bravely, and who know what will happen next? Going to another country or going through “the door” there are no guarantees, but that it is an option, “it is only a door.”

However there is still a door! There are not many legal doors any more anywhere else! A door without any promise is better than none!!!

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