Blog Post “Dialogue” close reading

“Dialogue” by Adrienne Rich communicates confusion and contemplation about one’s sexuality and marital life. The speaker emits uncertainty to herself or to another as she reflects on her troubles. It is clearly something that has bothered her for a time considering the third to last line in the first stanza which states “and this is what I live through over and over” (Rich, lines 8-9). The line suggests that these thoughts have been either vocalized or dwelled on repeatedly/frequently. In addition, throughout the poem the speaker appears to be repressing her feelings about her sexuality and the unsettling sensation that something is wrong. Rich portrays the inner emotions and doubts of the speaker in order to reveal the difficulties and social pressure someone outside of the heterosexual norm might experience.
Examples of the repression can be found in the second stanza, specifically in lines 11-14; “I do not know/ who I was when I did those things/or who I said I was/or whether I willed to feel/what I had read about.” The second stanza is all in italics, conveying that perhaps the speaker is lost in her thoughts or reliving the moments she is referring to in the stanza. Additionally, the repetition of “I” frequents the lines so much so that the reader can feel the speaker getting caught up in her thoughts. The “I’s” can also be looked at as a search into her identity and what “I” can truly be defined as in terms of sexual orientation, pronouns, and even a sense of internalized homophobia. The subject of her concern seems to be referring to the popular happy heterosexual married couple fantasy she “read about” before her marriage. Now in the relationship she expresses doubt and confusion about the intimacy and/or general relationship. “I do not know/who I was when I did those things” focusing on “things” alludes to sex. However, in this case, not knowing who she was did not mean she was lost in the moment but rather conveys the confusion as to why she was suppose to enjoy it as she now looks upon it filled with doubt and/or regret. “Who I said I was” suggests her claim as heterosexual may be questionable. Lastly, “or whether I willed to feel/what I had read about” expresses her want to feel what society insisted, however, the use of the word “willed” strongly suggests that she was forcing herself to do something she did not like.
The speaker, while expressing her thoughts, is repressing her emotions and truthfully her understanding. She knows she is different from what is expected of her by society and her reaction reveals the uncertainty and confusion she feels about her changing identity. Rich’s poem speaks to those who feel similarly while also connecting other readers by using emotions of doubt and confusion.

2 thoughts on “Blog Post “Dialogue” close reading”

  1. Thank you for the post. It was thorough in highlighting the doubt and questioning of sexual identity in “Dialogue.” You delved mostly into the second stanza that I wondered too if there was more to examine in the first stanza.
    I notice the use of Greek mythology in several of Rich’s poems. In “Diving into the Wreck,” there’s the book of myth. In “In Those Years,” there’re the “great dark birds,” which are very possible as crows, attribute of Hera. Crows are monogamous creatures, which I guess, can attest to the inescapable nature of “we” and “I” in the poem. In “Dialogue,” I notice that she evokes Zeus through “rain,” “August” (metamorphosis), and “heat-lightning,” that I thought she was using him as a myth, in regard to how myth can be false, undesirable, or detestable, like “if sex is an illusion.” I suppose this could further highlight the questioning of sexuality here.

  2. First off, I loved your interpretation of and insight into “Dialogue”, as this poem spoke to me a lot, as well. I ended up analyzing In Those Years for this assignment, but found many similarities and connections between both poems! When you discuss the rumination and sense of obsessive thoughts that you feel were a large focus of “Dialogue”, I can’t help but see how that connects with “In Those Years”, as I interpreted the latter poem as evoking a very unsettling feeling and conflict within oneself. I find that both poems share the theme of a tense distancing between oneself and one’s sexuality, as well as in relation to others and the larger society. In addition, I appreciated the observation you brought to the poem in describing it as a dissociation between two aspects of the self because that in and of itself is a dichotomous relationship and therefore relates to the aspect of “dialogue”.

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