Comparing the Writing Styles of Poets Anne Sexton and Slyvia Plath - Focusing on Their Works Regarding Death and Suicide

Comparing the Writing Styles of Poets Anne Sexton and Slyvia Plath - Focusing on Their Works Regarding Death and Suicide

This paper will attempt to compare the writing styles of poets Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath, focusing on their works regarding death and suicide. The biographical history of both will be examined to provide insight to each writers style and where they derived their inspiration from, delving into particularly their struggles leading up to the taking of their own lives. After comparing an argument will be made as to which poet brings more meaning and substance to the topic of death and and suicide, and why.

Other than the fine details, the historical background of both Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath and strikingly similar, mirroring each other in many ways. Both were female writers who wrote most of their works in the mid to late 20th century. Their most known works being poetry. Both were raised in New England. And lastly, both took their own lives.

An excerpt from Lady Lazarus by Plath, goes “Herr God, Her Lucifer. Beware. Beware. Out of the ash. I rise with my red hair. And I eat men like air.” The poem suggests that Plath glorifies suicide, not only seeing it as a form of escape, but as something that transcends life and should strive towards. Compare this to a poem titled Suicide Note by Anne Sexton. “I could admit. That i am the only coward. Crying me me me. And not mentions the gnats, the moths. Forced by circumstance.” A discrepancy can easily be seen. Sextons view is more shameful and understanding of the situation, contrasted against Plaths. A look into the writers personal lives can show us the reason for this discrepancy.

Sylvia had been a writer all her life. It was her career, what she studied and worked towards. This is important because for Anne Sexton this was not the case. Anne Sexton, the writer, was born when she was 28(Wood 4) .At that age Sexton began having mental breakdowns due to the pressure of being a mother. She began hearing voices that told her to kill her children as well as herself. She knew she was a danger but still loved her kids, and desperately wanted to be with them. When her daughter was finally taken away from her to live with her aunt Nana, her reasoning with Nana was, “But I'll be good - , I won't hurt them even if Linda whines for an hour! I promise!”(Gray 14) . It was in this state of mind that she turned to poetry as an expressive outlet. Sylvia Plath also had mental issues as well leading up to her suicide, depression over her husband, Ted Hughes, cheating on her and the subsequent divorce that followed(Hayman 173). So, how does this history tell us about their views on suicide and death? Plath was depressed over the breakdown of her relationship with Ted, she wanted vengence. This can be seen in the vengeful attitude expressed in Lady Lazarus. This reasoning is completely different for Anne Sexton. Sexton loved her children, but she was ashamed for who she was, a person who might one day possibly kill her kids. This explains her shamefulness and regret. Shes doesn't want to commit suicide, but shes force to because her brain wont' function properly despite her best efforts.

So, we see that these two poets have two different views on suicide and why they attempt it. Two difference ways suicide can be portrayed in poetry. For one its a revival in a way, getting back at those who wronged you. For the other its a simple act of kindness to those around you. Which viewpoint has more meaning? Personally, Sexton's style and viewpoint is far deeper and justified than Sylvia. The simple reason being that the act of revenge is a negative one, and common, whereas the act of self-sacrifice is an act of kindness and far less commonly seen in humanity.

This paper has examined the poetry of two writers over the similar subjects and compared their style and reasoning; as well, it has made an argument as to which style can be seen as deeper and more meaningful than the other.

Source Cited:

Gray, Linda. Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton. Back Bay Books, 1996. Print.

Hayman, Ronald. The death and life of Sylvia Plath. The History Press, 2003. Print.

Plath, Sylvia. "Lady Lazarus." Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. 2010. X.J Kennedy, Dana Gioa. New York, NY: Pearson, 2010. Print.

Sexton, Anne. "Anne Sexton- Suicide Note." American Poems. Gunnar Bengtsson , 20 Feb 2003. Web. 5 May 2011. .

Wood, Diane. Anne Sexton: a biography. Vintage, 1992. Print.