In Sexton’s “Briar Rose,” the story begins by the King hosting a christening for his new daughter, Briar Rose. He invites all but the thirteenth fairy to the event, and in her bitterness, she prophesizes that Briar Rose will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die at the young age of fifteen. The twelfth fairy alters the spell so that Briar Rose will only sleep for a hundred years rather than perish. The king rids the kingdom of every spinning wheel and forces every male in the kingdom to “scour his tongue with Bab-o.” On her fifteenth birthday, however, she did prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fell into a hundred-year sleep. At the end of these hundred years, one prince finally made it into her kingdom and kissed her, to which she awakened, crying “Daddy! Daddy!”
Sexton’s retelling of “Briar Rose” begins with a brief introduction, per say, that starts to explore the personal implications of the obvious sexual abuse that takes place in the story.
“She is stuck in the time machine,
suddenly two years old sucking her thumb,
as inward as a snail,
learning to talk again.”
(Sexton 107). This stanza alone makes it clear how deeply the trauma the na...
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...cles under her eyes and a look of weary resignation upon her face with an older man lying on top of her, caressing her face. Briar Rose was, in a way, forced to accept her father’s abuse as a part of her life because even if she cried out, no one would listen. When the original fairy tale was published in the early 1800s, most people would have quickly and quietly dismissed her claims. In the mid-twentieth century, Sexton experienced the same thing. Most accusations of sexual abuse at the time were quite simply ignored. Sexual violence was a topic to be avoided, especially when it concerned incestuous relationships (Skorczewski 323).
Sexton, Anne. Transformations. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1971. 106-112. Print.
Skorczewski, Dawn. "What Prison Is This? Literary Critics Cover Incest in Anne Sexton's "Briar Rose"." Signs. 21.2 (1996): 323. Print.
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