Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 340
There are only two real characters in Adrienne Rich's "Living in Sin." One is the woman who is the focus of the poem and the other is the man she loves and lives with. However, she is increasingly disillusioned with him, and their lives don't reflect what she thought they would be. Though the milkman doesn't appear in the poem, he does get mentioned as well.
The woman once had romantic notions of love and how her life would be when she lived with the man in the poem. Now that they live together, she's less excited and feels guilt over that lack of excitement.
The man she lives with seems equally unexcited by their day-to-day life. He doesn't have much agency or his own voice in the poem, but his lack of excitement can be seen by how he's described. He isn't engaged with the woman; he idly plays with the piano, yawns, and decides to go buy cigarettes.
The two people in the poem aren't married, which is why the title is "Living in Sin." It also speaks to the excitement the two lovers probably felt about defying society to move in together; it seems the woman thought their lives together would be exciting every day. They'd always have that same spark that they did in the beginning.
The woman clearly feels bad about her lack of excitement. It says that she didn't think about the fact that she'd have to clean. She didn't think about being woken up every morning or the sounds of the water taps. Real life is less romantic and dreamy than she expected when they moved in together. She still feels love for him, but the stuff of real life is always intruding and taking away from that romantic, exciting love.
Rich also mentions a milkman as part of the woman's complaints. She thinks that she didn't expect the stairs shaking as the man walked up the stairs in the morning. Near the end, she again compares the morning to his relentless approach.