Comparing Feminist Poetry by Plath and Sexton Essay

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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
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However, Plath uses her father's German ancestry, as well as ideas about women's relationships with their fathers and husbands, to broaden the poem's significance beyond the scope of her own experience. Plath herself said that the poem related to the Electra complex, defined by The World Book Medical Encyclopedia as a Freudian theory about a young girl's possessive but repressed love for her father ("Electra Complex" - online).

The child narrating "Daddy," in a youthful, Kipling-like rhythm, is haunted by her father's monumental presence in her world, calling him "marble-heavy, a bag full of God" (Plath 2748). Both the poem's childlike cadence and the innocent description of a father still the center of a young girl's universe make it easy to re-experience a youthful yearning for parental approval. When the father in the poem dies, the young girl spends much of her life searching for a way to understand and get close to him despite his absence. She inquires about the town where he grew up, but finds that "[...] the name of the town is common. / My Polack friend / Says there are a dozen or two. / So I never could tell where you / Put your foot, your root, / I never could talk to you" (Plath 2748). Later, her search for her

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