This collection of poems by Adrienne Rich poses many questions that intrigue the readers to attempt deciphering the meaning behind the several imagery and symbolism. Specifically, when analyzing Dialogue the irony behind the title and the rest of the poem. The word dialogue insinuates conversation between two people, yet in this poem, one can only locate one voice. The narrator seems to be deep in thought with herself, thus meaning an internal dialogue one where she is confronted by conflict and confusion. The structure of the poem is reaffirming of an internal conflict within the first sentence there is an enjambment. May be representative of her continuous, repetitive thoughts that seem to be never-ending. Thoughts that seem foreign and uncomfortable for the narrator to confront based on her own “doubt about these things” (100). Those “things” being questions of sexuality as she questions if she knows “sex is an illusion” (100). Sex may represent the act or the questioning of one’s sexuality, in this case, it may refer to the act which is commonly accepted between a woman and man. Following this quote is a sudden break in the poem as the narrator may have the internal conflict as to whether to continue with this train of thought of questioning her sexuality.
Early on in the poem, the narrator seems to be fidgeting and “turning an old ring to the light” as if she was conflicted with her true feelings regarding her idea of traditional marriage between a man and woman. Although it was written in 1972 the cultural context varies from today in terms of sexuality questioning awareness and homosexuality thoughts were not commonly accepted. The imagery behind the “rain against the screens” signifies the violent, rattling against a figurative window and her thoughts that provoke her everyday activities (100). They distract her from attending to her usual tasks and these thoughts seem to follow her as she goes to make tea and go about her day. The cluster of related terms including “August, heat-lighting, and tea” can signify heat, possibly an illusion of how she feels overwhelmed by her thoughts (100). Tone and word choice throughout the poem has a negative connotation when she says “and this is what I live through over and over” which is indicative of how she seems exasperated with these penetrating thoughts (100).
The latter half of the poem is a personal reflection of her running thoughts as we glimpse into these questions she poses for herself. There is a sense of desperate questioning of identity when she asks “who I was when I did those things” (100). The narrator seems to be repressing her feelings based on what she views around her as socially acceptable, by learning through current readings and in that current political climate questioning sexuality was not as commonly accepted. “Those things” possibly being engaging in a heterosexual marriage and reflects on how as though she cannot associate herself with that same person. The disconnect haunts her throughout the day with this personal dialogue that is repetitive and seemingly never-ending.