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“Living in Sin”, a poem by Adrienne Rich is quite descriptive. The poet illustrates the peculiarities of a woman in it and compares them with realities. Images that juxtapose the woman’s exceptions with the reality of her circumstance are used to convey these ideas. Although there is still a chance for love and the evening realization of those dreams, each new possibility just serves to reinforce the daily cycle of misery.
About The Poet
Adrienne Cecile Rich was a feminist, essayist, and poet from the United States. The persecution of women and lesbians was brought to the forefront of poetic discourse courtesy to her, who was hailed as one of the most broadly known and important poets of the second half of the 20th century.
She had thought the studio would keep itself; no dust upon the furniture of love. Half heresy, to wish the taps less vocal, the panes relieved of grime. A plate of pears, a piano with a Persian shawl, a cat stalking the picturesque amusing mouse had risen at his urging.
The poet portrays a young woman living in a studio flat in the opening seven lines of “Living in Sin.” She surveys the parts of her house there. It’s quite run-down and not at all what she had pictured her home to look like in her most ardent fantasies.
The woman and her companion are not married and, as many religions would have it, are “sinning.” Nothing is unfolding exactly like she anticipated it to. The two were intended to have a love affair full of beautiful things like “A plate of pears” and “a cat / stalking” a mouse. The entire thing was supposed to be “picturesque.”
Not that at five each separate stair would writhe under the milkman's tramp; that morning light so coldly would delineate the scraps of last night's cheese and three sepulchral bottles; that on the kitchen shelf among the saucers a pair of beetle-eyes would fix her own--- envoy from some village in the moldings . . . Meanwhile, he, with a yawn, sounded a dozen notes upon the keyboard, declared it out of tune, shrugged at the mirror, rubbed at his beard, went out for cigarettes; while she, jeered by the minor demons, pulled back the sheets and made the bed and found a towel to dust the table-top, and let the coffee-pot boil over on the stove. By evening she was back in love again, though not so wholly but throughout the night she woke sometimes to feel the daylight coming like a relentless milkman up the stairs.
She shares a similar mental condition with the man she is living with. He yawns and plays the piano despite being bored with everything. It is “out of tune,” which emphasizes how regrettably things turned out. Her boyfriend doesn’t appear to be genuinely attempting to engage with her or make things better.
He lives life half-heartedly before going out to get cigarettes in the evening. It sounds and feels quite uninteresting and ordinary. She is left in charge of the house. The little devils of the woman “jeer at her.” But regrettably, in “Living in Sin,” problems are not always simple to resolve. She scuffs up one place while attempting to clean it. There doesn’t appear to be a way out of this awful loop.
She continues to experience the cycle of falling in and out of love, with each night bringing a restart of her emotions followed by a fatigue of them. In the final sentences, the milkman reappears. He is unmistakably a representation of her world’s reality. She is reminded of how little her life is like her dreams when she sees and/or hears him climbing the stairs.