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Living in Sin

Living in Sin


by Adrienne Rich

Living in Sin Theme of Women and Femininity

The woman in "Living in Sin" does not put a lot of effort into keeping up the household, but the man seems to put in no effort at all. This inequality is reflective of gender roles in the 1950s, when the poem was written. The inequality is also extended to the couple's relationship, since the studio is a metaphor for it. In both cases, the woman seems unhappy with her surroundings, and the emphasis of the speaker directs us to consider her plight. In short: bad times.

Questions About Women and Femininity

  1. How are the roles of the man and the woman in this poem different? Do you think these roles reflect societal expectations in the 1950s? What about today?
  2. How does the man's attitude to the relationship differ from the woman's? 
  3. Why do you think the man is given a relatively small role in the poem? Does this reflect his role in the relationship in any way?
  4. Think about the metaphor of a home for the relationship. Do you think this metaphor is says something about issues pertaining to women? Which issues? Why?

Chew on This

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

Although the woman in this poem does very little to keep up the home (the relationship), she does a whole heapin' heck of a lot more than the man does. This reflects the unequal roles of men and women when it comes to home and family matters.

Although the narrator is omniscient (all-knowing), he or she seems to have the woman's back, speaking from her point of view in the poem and therefore asking us, the readers, to take her side against Mr. Boring Jeans over there.

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