Living in Sin
by Adrienne Rich
Living in Sin Women and Femininity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
She had thought the studio would keep itself; (1)
The title suggests that this couple, living together outside of marriage, was a rebellious couple for the 1950s. Even though things didn't turn out the way she wanted, this first line also shows that the woman did not expect to have to take on the traditional role of homemaker in order to keep up the couple's home and their relationship. However, given that she thought the studio (the relationship) would stay tidy all by itself, it doesn't seem that she gave much thought to the practicalities of how things would get done. Notice that she didn't suggest that she and her partner would share responsibilities!
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; (15-18)
Here we see the man's main role in the poem, which doesn't amount to very much. While the woman doesn't put a lot of effort into keeping up the studio (the relationship), the man doesn't put in any effort at all, symbolized most clearly by the fact that upon noticing that the piano needs some attention, he just gets up and actually leaves the home, rather than doing anything about it.
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. (19-22)
These lines contrast with the previous lines (15-18) that show the man leaving the home when he notices something needs attention. Here, the woman is bothered enough by the deterioration of their home (their relationship) that she attempts to clean up. The poem starts out suggesting that this couple is not very traditional, in that they live together outside of wedlock. Also, the woman did not seem to have the intention of being a traditional homemaker. However, by the end of the poem, their roles seem a little more traditional than the woman once imagined, in that the man is absent from the home, and the woman is left to do the housework.