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Living in Sin

Living in Sin


by Adrienne Rich

Living in Sin Theme of Dissatisfaction

In "Living in Sin," the contrast between what the woman thought her relationship would be like, and what it is actually like, shows some serious, mega-value-sized dissatisfaction. But even though she does more than her partner to "clean things up," she really doesn't put a whole lot of effort into making the situation better. This lack of effort makes us wonder whether, in the end, she's not just dissatisfied with the way things turned out. Maybe she's also dissatisfied with her choice in partners.

Questions About Dissatisfaction

  1. We know the woman in the poem is dissatisfied with her relationship. Is there anything in the poem to suggest that she is also dissatisfied with herself? If so, what?
  2. Why do you think the woman doesn't do anything to change her dissatisfied state? 
  3. Do you think the woman's partner is as dissatisfied as she is? Why or why not?
  4. Have you ever done something you thought was going to turn out a certain way, only to find out it that it was nowhere near as great as you imagined it would be? How did your experience compare to the woman's?
  5. If you were as dissatisfied with your relationship as the woman in the poem seems to be, what would you do?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Dissatisfaction should cause people to take action. Nobody should stay unhappy, and the couple in the poem should either work harder on their relationship or let it go. Fish, or cut bait!

They've got nobody to blame but themselves. People who stay in unsatisfying situations are usually bored and apathetic, so they are not stimulated or inspired to do anything about it. This is probably what caused the relationship to deteriorate so much, and it also explains why the couple isn't doing anything about it.

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