Friday, May 2, 2008

Theory Questions of "Living in Sin" by Adrienne Rich

"Living in Sin" by Adrienne Rich is a poem that clearly connotates patriarchal values using the feminist theory. It portrays a speaker, a woman, who believes that by simply keeping a clean house and doing her womanly duties that her marriage would be fulfilled. She states this from the opening line, "She had thought the studio would keep itself,// no dust upon the furniture of love" (1-2) This statement is followed with images of patriarchy: "a cat//stalking a picturesque amusing mouse" stairs writhing under a milkman's tramp and "sepulchral bottles" of milk. These binaries clearly show a dominance over recessive things just as men dominate women.

The statement of feminist values is further made through the actions of the man. All that the man is seem doing are self-centered. He yawns, plays the piano, looks at himself in the mirror, fixes his beard, and leaves for cigarettes. He is first described with a yawn, which shows his indifference and lack of involvement in his family life. He then takes leave of the poem and the house because he went out for cigarettes, not at all involving himself with the duties of the house. The fact that while he is doing this, the woman makes the bed and dusts. She is frustrated and her frustration is shown through the coffee boiling over.

The patriarchal standpoint of this poem is brought home at the end when she says she is "back in love again," yet dreads the morning because she knows she will have to do her duties once again.


1) Is there a connection between daylight and her feeling of suppression?

2) How is the woman "Living in Sin?"

3) What is meant by the statement "half heresy" in line 3 before describing the perfect house?


jgchurch111 said...

Wonderful reading of "Living in Sin." I loved it. So here's an idea about living in sin: Sex out of wedlock nowadays is different than sex out of wedlock during the time when this poem was written. Religion was stronger back then. I'm beginning to notice how much religion affects cultural attitudes about women.

Kelly Flannery said...

I don't think the sin in this poem is about having sex out of wedlock. I think the here the sin is in being married and not being in love. The woman tried to hold on to everything she can to preserve the relationship however because she cannot bear leaving the man.