Phantasia for Elvira Shatayev


"Phantasia for Elvira Shatayev"

Love, fear, jealousy, courage and death all have a major role in Adrienne Rich's "Phantasia for Elvira Shatayev." Adrienne Rich takes us inside Shatayev's head and depicts her joys and feeling of triumph along with her lingering undertones of jealousy. The use of the journals helps to relate the comradery and love within the team but also serves to paint a picture of an ungrateful Shatayev. Throughout this poem there are repeated declarations of love and friendship for the team members contrasted by subtle negligence of the husband's feelings.
In the poem Shatayev seems to draw all her strength from the women of her climbing team. Rich writes in the sixth stanza, "After the long training the early sieges we are moving effortlessly in our love." To characterize the terrorizing, freezing, and finally fatal trek up Lenin peak as effortless due to a "love" depicts a bond of a immeasurable magnitude. When the speaker talks of love or strength within the team, the word "I" is seldom used. The repeated use of "our" and "we" show an intense strength of love in there group. They are one, working together toward a common goal with their hardship only serving to tighten their unit.
A great courage is depicted in the character of the speaker. Her "yes," as well as the group's, work together to create a great feeling of strength by compensating for individual
weakness. This is reinforced in the second journal entry when she writes, "We know we have always been in danger down in our separateness and now up here together but till now we had not touched our strength." Danger has always been there for them; separate or together; but it wasn't until "now" that they truly found their safety in each other. Their common goal brings them together and helps their strengths to overlap and conquer their fears.
Along with this strength Shatayev also seem to carry a certain jealousy towards her husband. When Rich writes in the third stanza, "I feel you climbing towards me your . . . bootsoles leaving their geometric bite . . . as when I trailed you in the Caucasus Now I am further" Elvira shows her pride in the fact that she has moved on and has now surpassed her husband, her teacher. Although she doesn't say her quest is more important than his it is implied when she says, "You climbed here for yourself we climbed here for ourselves." When Shatayev's husband climbed Lenin peak, it was not for glory or fame, it was for the sole purpose of putting his dead wife's body to rest. She seems almost resentful that he made it back when she says in the fifth stanza, "when you have buried us told your story ours does not end." He performed a completely selfless act, he risked his life to make sure her body and soul could rest. My assumptions that she is jealous and resentful of his past accomplishments may be presumptuous, but at the very least she is ungrateful.
Love seems to be one of the driving factors for Shatayev. Her love for the women of her team is intense, it drives deep and is easily felt by the reader. She has a bond that epitomizes the idea of sisterhood. The quote, "I have never loved like this I have never seen my own forces taken up and shared and given back" from the first journal entry portrays a love so immense and powerful that only Elvira and her "sisters" will ever know the true boundaries. The bond of love between the team mates is a repeated theme throughout the poem. In contrast the love between Shatayev and her husband is only seen as coming from him. It may be that her love is implied, or at that point in time the sisterly love was more important to her. It still leaves the questions in my head, why in her last living moments, did she not mention once the love she shared with her husband, and why th for themselves and his for himself. It is not said, but it is implied by Shatayev that he went on the voyage with the ulterior motive of gaining fame, a selfish goal. These implications show a jealousy that may have clouded