Dialogue: A Conversation with Yourself

Adrienne Rich’s poem “Dialogue” explores sex and gender in an interesting way through the use of pronouns. Over the course of two stanzas, Rich uses the pronouns “she”, “I”, “our”, and “we” while telling the story of a conversation. While it is not entirely clear if this conversation in between two different people or one person reflecting to themselves, it is my argument that is it the latter. Perhaps this could be commentary on the trans experience, with the narrator being a trans male, trans female, or nonbinary individual looking back on who they once were. The “she” and “I” pronouns exist separately until they are brought together when Rich writes “we look at each other,” as if the two halves of this person’s identity are coming together to reflect.

The second half of the poem is exclusively in italics and only uses the “I” pronoun. It begins with “she” saying “I do not know if sex is an illusion.” While sex and gender are different, they are rather similar and are used interchangeably. If Rich is using sex in place of gender, this statement could be commentary on society’s concept of men and women and how it tries to put people in boxes. If this is from the point of view from a trans person, then it could be their old self questioning their place in the boxes society provides. The rest of the italic section is this narrator who they once were in the past and what they did. The use of “I” in combination with the italics makes the second stanza appear to be an internal monologue of the narrator. The narrator’s inner thoughts with the image of them talking to who they were before allows for the reader to see the changes that can occur with someone when they are allowed to be their true self.

2 thoughts on “Dialogue: A Conversation with Yourself”

  1. I really enjoyed your view on the way that pronouns were used within the poem. This was a perspective that I hadn’t thought about yet and it really changes the way I think of the poem. By taking on this perspective it can clear some of the ambiguity between who the narrator is speaking to or who the “I” is referring to. I also like the point that the previous commenter posted about the way we interpret poems with our modern day lens versus how the poem was originally intended to be read. If the narrator was actually talking to someone rather than their past self, who do you think “she” would be?

  2. I also wrote in my blog post about the connection between the pronouns being heavily ambiguous. After reading your post and taking into the societal perspective view of the narrator, I thought about Ned Katz’s article, and how people’s views on sexuality and gender have changed over time. Considering how Rich wrote this poem back in the 60s, I think it’s interesting to consider how this reads in the modern day versus how Rich might’ve originally intended it to read. Personally I think Rich still captures a great perspective of non-cis gender experiences, and that this poem has aged incredibly well in regards to that.

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