Comparing Feminist Poetry by Plath and Sexton Essay

Comparing Feminist Poetry by Plath and Sexton Essay

Length: 1203 words (3.4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Strong Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Comparing Feminist Poetry by Plath and Sexton

Poetry "should be a shock to the senses. It should also hurt" Anne Sexton believed (Baym 2703), and evidence of this maxim's implications echoes loudly through the writing of Sexton as well as through the work of her friend and contemporary Sylvia Plath.

Plath and Sexton's lifetimes spanned a period of remarkable change in the social role of women in America, and both are obviously feminist poets caught somewhere between the submissive pasts of their mothers and the liberated futures awaiting their daughters. With few established female poets to emulate, Plath and Sexton broke new ground with their intensely personal, confessional poetry. Their anger and frustration with female subjugation, as well as their agonizing personal struggles and triumphs appear undisguised in their works, but the fact that both Sexton and Plath committed suicide inevitably colors what the reader gleans from their poems. However, although their poems, such as Plath's "Daddy" and Sexton's "Little Girl, My String Bean, My Lovely Woman," deal with the authors' private experiences, they retain elements of universality; their language cuts through a layer of individual perspective to reach a current of raw emotion common to all human, but especially female, understanding.

In Plath's "Daddy," written just before her death and published posthumously, the most readily accessible emotion is anger, and much of the poem is couched in autobiographical allusions. Plath's own father died of a gangrenous infection, caused by diabetes he refused to treat, when Plath was eight years old, and his death was "the crucial event of her childhood" (Baym 2743). Plath makes personal references to her father as a...

... middle of paper ... struggles and human relationships- of the things women carry with them that make them who they are.

Works Cited

Baym, Nina. General Editor. "Anne Sexton." The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 5th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998. 2703-4.

---"Sylvia Plath." The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 5th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998. 2742-44.

"Electra Complex." The World Book Medical Encyclopedia. Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Chicago. April 2002. <>.

Plath, Sylvia. "Daddy." The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 5th ed. General
Editor, Nina Baym. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998. 2748-50.

Sexton, Anne. "Little Girl, My String Bean, My Lovely Woman." The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 5th ed. General Editor, Nina Baym. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998. 2707-09.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Plath’s Daddy - Plath as a Weak Feminist Essay

- Plath as a Weak Feminist in Daddy Plath's innate emptiness and emotional constraint comes , I believe, from her lack of male encouragement and her according need for domination. This streams from the untimely death of her father at 9. In this poem Plath alludes to her relationship to her father with an emphasis on his German background and identity. In this way she comments on him in contradicting terms, firstly, as a divine figure: "..A bag full of God", towering over her in a seemingly totalitarian way....   [tags: Feminism Feminist Women Criticism]

Free Essays
337 words (1 pages)

Anne Sexton: Poetry as Therapy Essay

- Anne Sexton: Poetry as Therapy Many great literary and artistic geniuses have been troubled with deep depression and mental illness. Anne Sexton is an example of a poet with such problems who used her personal despair to inspire her poetic works. Not all of Sexton's work is based solely on her mental health; but a good portion of her work is influenced by her constant bouts with depression. As she struggled to deal with her own marital infidelity and the problems associated with being a female poet in a male dominated genre, she combined the theme of depression with one based on the roles of women in society....   [tags: Anne Sexton Poet Poem Poetry Essays]

Strong Essays
1430 words (4.1 pages)

Analysis Of The Poem ' Sylvia 's Death ' By Anne Sexton Essay

- Sexton’s Emotional Journey Death can represent a multitude of things. For example, it can be depicted as a villain that will eventually claim everyone, or it could represent the escape from the world that someone has always been seeking. Regardless, dying is the end to everyone’s life. However, the poem "Sylvia 's Death" by Anne Sexton regards thoughts of death as well as the act of suicide as an escape from reality and the problems the world presents. Sexton utilizes organized couplets to resonate the speaker’s depression in order to emphasize the change in tone throughout the poem, which evolves as the speaker accepts the unfortunate news of Plath’s death....   [tags: Suicide, Death, Sylvia Plath, Suicide methods]

Strong Essays
1059 words (3 pages)

Essay on Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar - Feminist Thought

- The Bell Jar  - Feminist Thought The Bell Jar   This autobiographical novel by Sylvia Plath follows the story of Esther Greenwood, a third year college student who spends her summer at a lady's fashion magazine in Manhattan. But despite her high expectations, Esther becomes bored with her work and uncertain about her own future. She even grows estranged from her traditional-minded boyfriend, Buddy Willard, a medical student later diagnosed with TB. Upon returning to her hometown New England suburb, Esther discovers that she was not selected to take a Harvard summer school fiction course, and subsequently starts to slip into depression....   [tags: Feminism Feminist Women Criticism]

Free Essays
694 words (2 pages)

Feminism in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar Essay

- Feminism in The Bell Jar In Sylvia Plath's autobiographical novel The Bell Jar, the reader learns of the adventures of a young woman in a male-dominated society that will not let her achieve her true potential. Plath's alter ego, Esther, is thus driven to a nervous breakdown and attempts suicide numerous times. In many ways, this novel is a feminist text, centered around the struggles of a young woman who cannot reach her goals in our male-dominated society. People close to Esther, do not accept her talents as a poet and writer, but rather try to push her into traditionally more feminine roles....   [tags: Feminism Feminist Women Criticism]

Free Essays
418 words (1.2 pages)

Analysis Of ' Daddy ' By Sylvia Plath Essay

- Sylvia Plath’s jarring poem ‘Daddy’, is not only the exploration of her bitter and tumultuous relationship with her father, husband and perhaps the male species in general but is also a strong expression of resentment against the oppression of women by men and the violence and tyranny men can and have been held accountable for. Within the piece, the speaker creates a figurative image of her father by using metaphors to describe her relationship with him: “Not God but a Swastika” , he is a “… brute” , even likening him to leader of the Nazi Party; Adolf Hitler: “A man in black with a Meinkampf look .” Overall, the text is a telling recount of her hatred towards her father and her husband of “...   [tags: Poetry, Love, Rhyme, Sylvia Plath]

Strong Essays
949 words (2.7 pages)

Comparing the Dominant and Feminist Readings of Shakespeare's King Lear

- Comparing the Dominant and Feminist Readings of King Lear      Shakespeare's King Lear has been the source of much contention as to the way in which the text can be read. The play originally was written for the Jacobean audience of Shakespeare's time, but since then has taken on many other readings. These new readings are produced to comment on issues in the society in which it is explored. Readings encompass a wide range of ideas - from the Dominant reading, the manner in which Shakespeare's audience would have perceived the text, to feminist ideals....   [tags: Feminism Feminist Women Criticism]

Strong Essays
1365 words (3.9 pages)

Anne Sexton's Retelling of Cinderella Essay

- Anne Sexton's Retelling of Cinderella Michelangelo, perhaps the most gifted sculptor and painter of all times, once said that "geniuses stand on the shoulders of other geniuses." As Michelangelo built upon the brilliance of his predecessors, Anne Sexton does the same with her poem "Cinderella". Fairy tales originated as oral traditions and were passed along and sculpted by thousands of story tellers....   [tags: Sexton Cinderella Poem Poetry]

Strong Essays
1004 words (2.9 pages)

Plath - A Rebuttal of the Feminist Label Essay

- Plath - A Rebuttal of the "Feminist" Label       Sylvia Plath has long been hailed as a feminist writer of great significance. In her 1976 book Literary Women, Ellen Moers writes, "No writer has meant more to the current feminist movement" (qtd. in Wagner 5), and still today, at a time when the idea of equality for women isn't so radically revolutionary as it had been earlier in the century, Plath is a literary symbol of the women's rights movement. Roberta Mazzenti quotes Robert A. Piazza as writing that there is "little feminist consciousness" in Plath's work, and goes on to explain that because "Plath's work [is] being read......   [tags: Biography Biographies Essays]

Free Essays
3301 words (9.4 pages)

The Shock of Sylvia Plath's Daddy Essay

- The Shock of Plath’s Daddy “Daddy” is one of the most highly anthologized poems of Plath's (along with "Lady Lazarus"). It is a notorious poem, the one once compared to "Guernica" by George Steiner. The imagery and audaciousness of it still shock, so much so that I don't even know if it is being taught or anthologized or taught any more; it is almost as if the critical world has had its say on it and has moved on, either to other poems in Ariel, or to other books altogether, such as The Colossus or Crossing The Water....   [tags: Plath Daddy Essays]

Free Essays
540 words (1.5 pages)