The Plath to Success; A Thematic Analysis of Belonging and Individuality in Sylvia Plath’s Initiation
There is no shortage of media encouraging adolescents to ‘be themselves’, promoting self-worth regardless as to what others think. And yet while many may be fed this message throughout music and film, rarely ever is it conveyed to have a lasting effect on one’s personal views quite like Initiation. Sylvia Plath’s short story follows the development of insecure and vulnerable Millicent Arnold, a girl who longs to be part of her high school sorority, even if it means suffering through humiliation and subjugation to do so. Although formulaic, Plath’s uniquely optimistic short story warns against an obsession with belonging and explores the importance of individuality through the protagonist’s initial insecurities, the cruelty of the sorority girls, and the symbolism of the heather birds.
In order to express the importance of the theme, the reader is introduced to Millicent’s initial dependence on belonging as a result of her self-conscious character. When she first learns of her invitation to the sorority, Millicent compares her situation to waiting outside a dance floor “looking in through the windows at the golden interior … wistfully watching … couples waltzing to the never-ending music, laughing in pairs and groups together, no one alone” (Plath 200). Millicent emphasizes that in her vision no dancer is left on their own, and that her desire to enter the sorority is