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Anne Sexton Influence to American Literature

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At first glance, the term “American literature” may seem easy to define. Is American literature written strictly by Americans, about America, or somehow ingrained with the American idea? American literature serves as a mean to examine a society’s ideas, and dreams by dealing with specifically American circumstances. Anne Sexton, originally Anne Gray Harvey, was born in Newton Massachusetts on November 9, 1928. Possible sexual abuse and abandonment from her parents left Sexton traumatized. Her aunts hospitalization and frequent breakdown caused further distress. Due to her inability to concentrate and occasional disobedience Sexton disliked school. In 1945, when Sexton was 17 years old, her family sent her to Rogers Hall, a boarding school in Lowell, Massachusetts. She began to write poetry and act. After graduating, Sexton attended a finishing school, however her looks and sense of danger attracted many men and at nineteen years old, she eloped with Alfred “Kayo” Sexton. Due to Kayo’s absence in the war, infidelity and afterwards therapy became a great role in Sexton’s life.

Encouragement to write was originally her therapists idea after Sextons depression worsened. The decline of her unhappiness exhibited by her abusing her children and several suicide attempts, which led to periodic institutionalization. In 1957, when she was 29 years old, Sexton joined many Boston writing groups, which helped her discovery authors such as Maxine Kumin, George Starbuck, Robert Lowell, and Sylvia Plath. She mastered techniques, which increased her popularity, as her poetry became a fundamental aspect in her life. Her poems gained attention as good reviews were published. Readers were especially interested in her poetry because it reflected their daily lives with similar kinds of uneasiness and fear.

All My Pretty Ones, a book expressing Sextons loss and grief, was published in

1962. Her poetry became so popular, it began to publish worldwide in 1964. Sexton received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for her book Live or Die, in 1967. In 1967, she was given an invitation to give the Morris Gray reading at Harvard. This was followed by a Guggenheim Fellowship, Ford Foundation grants, honorary degrees, professorships at Colgate University and Boston University, and many other pathways.

Transformations, a more feminist based work was published in 1972 and appealed to a different type of audience. Transformations was more prone to speak out about cultural issues, rather than previous confessional works of poetry. Anne Sexton influenced American literature by relating to the uncertainty of the time period, writing about depression, abuse, feminism and reflecting the nation's troubles.

“Admonitions To A Special Person” was written for Sexton’s second to last published book, The Death Notebooks in 1974. This was her last book published when she was still alive, possibly foreshadowing her suicide.

Comparisons can easily be recognized in Admonitions. The first stanza demonstrates the climbing of a mountain to obtaining power. This comparison can be seen as a metaphor, however metaphors usually compare two unequal things. It is not unlikely to see that climbing a mountain and achieving power are similar. Although the literal goal between the two is different, climbing towards the top of the mountain and climbing towards the top of a power ladder can be seen as reciprocal. The “avalanche” that is described to “bury you” can be compared to the struggles and fallbacks of achieving power.

The first six stanzas in this poem are similar in formation. Beginning with the phrase, “watch out for,” Sexton emphasizes the negative components of her chosen topics: power, hate, friends, intellect, games, and love. Turning love into a trap, intellect into stupidity, and loyalty into betrayal, Sexton plays the Devils advocate on things most people would view as good. The end of the third stanza demonstrates the opposite of euphemism, which is sometimes considered “soft language”. This literary technique is called dysphemism. Rather than writing something simplistic and temperate such as “your friends will leave you,” Sexton opts for a harsher, more descriptive phrase by saying “they will bury their heads in the toilet and flush themselves away.” This technique of writing was often seen during the time period, however, Sextons writing about the strive for power and abandonment was relatable to most of the nation, therefore making her standout.

Unlike her previous stanzas, which began with a cautious outlook, Sexton starts the seventh stanza with a questioning “Love?” Stanza seven continues by stating “to love another is something like a prayer and can’t be planned, you just fall into its arms because your belief undoes your disbelief.”(“Admonitions



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