In Adrienne Rich’s poem, “Living in Sin,” a woman, entering a life full of hope and promises with her lover, assumes that “no dust” will fall upon her home, nor her perfect relationship. Her life, however, does not fit this ideal. Both a deteriorating home and relationship afflict her life; these unexpected results of her efforts in addition to the lack of her lover’s efforts lead to resentful feelings. It is rather about the sin of staying in a marriage that lacks love. The milkman symbolizes the change of emotion that over shadowed both of them. Whereas the studio, is the symbols of home which supposedly consists of love, emotions, and full commitments. Ironically, the man (or the husband) is lack o commitment. He just complains about things in the house that annoyed him but do nothing. He plays a role of irresponsible lover who seeks marriage for the sake of having sex. His wife is the one who did the household chores. At night, we can see that their loves blooms again. However, not last and even rotten in the morning. Because the man lacks commitment, the woman takes the burden for both housecleaning as well as improving the couple’s relationship. The portrait of her miserable life contrasts sharply with that of her lover. While she struggles with the endless monotony of house chores, he loaf around, carefree and relaxed. During her monotonous morning routine, the man flippantly goes “out for cigarettes.” Although he too notices the problems in the house, he satisfies himself with merely complaining. Rather than taking action and tuning the piano, the man merely declares it out of tune, and shrugs indifferently.
On the other hand, because the author of the poem did not state the woman is married to the man or not, maybe it is possible for us to say that the studio apartment is like a still life and she is cleaning it up, part of a passionless routine, but the “minor demon” is something far more than mere dissatisfaction with the marriage. She feels guilty about not being happy, yes, but she “turns back the sheets” only after the husband leaves. She has been unfaithful, and the changing of the sheets, the unveiling of the secret, is what preoccupied her. She has preoccupied enough to let the coffee burn over on the stove; this is a sexual image, the overflowing and the heat. It is brewing in the back of her mind while she does all these routine cleaning chores. The sin is the infidelity and it is in the guilt from not living in the present and not being in love with the husband, who is indifferent.
The woman in ‘Living in Sin’ is thrust upon the reality that happiness and perfection are not always guaranteed, and pursues the adulterous consequences of a mundane marriage and life. As she cannot bear to remove herself from the demeaning and repetitive cycle of marriage, ‘Living in Sin’ is a woman’s revelation that it is a sin to dedicate oneself to a marriage, a life, without love.