Rich's poem "Living in Sin"

Essay by Anonymous UserHigh School, 10th gradeA+, November 1996

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In Adrienne Rich's poem, 'Living in Sin,' a woman, entering a life full of hope and promises with her lover, assumes that 'no dust' will fall upon her home, nor her perfect relationship. Her life, however, does not fit this ideal. Both a deteriorating home and relationship afflict her life; these unexpected results of her efforts in addition to the lack of her lover's efforts lead to resentful feelings. Because of society's expectations, the woman accepts her unbearable role. Rich reveals the woman's attempts to improve her physical environment and emotional life, and her ultimate acceptance of both situations.

The woman's and her lover's responses to living in a run-down home contrast sharply. The 'dust[y]' atmosphere creates an aura of decay. The reality of the woman's broken dreams is inescapable. The home, in disrepair, has roaches coming out of their colonies in the moldings and grimy window panes.

Society dictates that she must take on the domestic drudgeries of life. In the male dominant society, she alone must fulfill the role of housekeeper. With the absence of her lover, the woman takes sole responsibility for maintaining a pleasant household; she alone makes the bed, dusts the tabletop, and sets the coffee on the stove. The portrait of her miserable life contrasts sharply with that of her lover. While she struggles with the endless monotony of house chores, he loafs around, carefree and relaxed. During her monotonous morning routine, the man flippantly goes 'out for cigarettes.' Although he too notices the problems in the house, he satisfies himself with merely complaining. Rather than taking action and tuning the piano, the man merely 'declare[s] it out of tune, [and] shrug[s]' indifferently. The woman does not even control her home's furnishings. The food and painting are both results of the man's...