Anne Sexton’s “Her Kind”: An Argumentative Analysis
Anne Sexton’s poem entitled “Her Kind” is a depiction of a woman’s life in the wild. The narrator illustrated the life of the woman into the arms of day and night. This poem has no representation of other characters but only the woman who seemed to be main character of the verse. The narrator also discussed in the poem how the main character perceived life into a greater aspect. What the narrator is trying to impose in the poem is that the main character was not the same as what other people think against her. While the society perceived the woman as ‘evil’ and senseless, the narrator looked at her sensible and a woman with full of life. From this case, the purpose of this paper is to discuss the elements, literary images, languages, and thoughts that emerged in the whole poem to justify the the claim of the author – her kind is unique.
“I have gone out, a possessed witch / haunting the black air, braver at night; / dreaming evil, I have done my hitch / over the plain houses, light by light: / lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind. / A woman like that is not a woman, quite. / I have been her kind. (1-7)” In this first part of the poem, the narrator started to analyze the character of the persona. He wanted to illustrate how the woman works for her own life. In this part of the poem also stated the negativities that exists within her through the eyes of many but at the end of the stanza, the narrator stated that she has been part of her. The language in this stanza showed envy and fear of the narrator against the persona. The author used dark words such as evil and night to justify the thought of power in beneath the dak side of life. It is also a manifestation of the ways on how people treated the persona towards her lifestyle and actions.
According to Diane Wood Middlerbrook, “No matter what poetry she had on an evening’s agenda, Sexton offered this persona as a point of entry to her art. “I” in the poem is a disturbing, marginal female whose power is associated with disfigurement, sexuality, and magic. But at the end of each stanza, “I” is displaced from sufferer onto storyteller (Middlerbrook).” Middlerbrook perceived that in the beginning of the poem, the persona is part of the physical and mental oppressions but at the end of the verse, from being a sufferer, the persona became the source of power and strength. It was seen in the poem that the development of the character changes in time. As the verse progresses, the persona also elevated its self into the lighter path of realism.
“I have found the warm caves in the woods, / filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves, / closets, silks, innumerable goods; / fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves: / whining, rearranging the disalign. / A woman like that is misunderstood. / I have been her kind. (8-14)” In this part of the poem, attachment or connection between the character and the narrator was already built. Despite of characterizing the character as negative into the eyes of other people, the narrator still build her own creation of beauty onto the character of the persona. The irony of beauty and cruelty started to emerge in this stanza where sensitivity and indifference exists such as the concepts of hardness and softness – silks and closets, worms and elves, and other images. The language of the narrator in this part is more on the intimate words because the attachment between her and the persona shows unity and oneness. It means that there are manifestations that the persona and the narrator is one person.
“With the lines “A woman like that … I have been her kind” Sexton conveys the terms on which she wishes to be understood: not victim, but witness and witch (Middlebrook).” Sexton used different images and literary elements to illsutrate the difference of negativity and enthusiasm. She differentiate this two concept into different phases of the poem. Because the character and the narrator has one persona, Middlebrook stated that from being part of the oppressive society, she became more powerful and uncontrollabe with her acts whether it is for the betterment of her own or the others.
“I have ridden in your cart, driver, / waved my nude arms at villages going by, / learning the last bright routes, survivor / where your flames still bite my thigh / and my ribs crack where your wheels wind. / A woman like that is not ashamed to die. / I have been her kind. (15-21)” In the last part of the poem, the resolution evolved. From being an anguish individual, persona elevated into a mature and constant persona through the justifications of being a survivor and fearless. It has been said in this part of the poem that everything changes into a deeper context of reality. If there are forms of fear in the beginning, it will soon revolve into a fearless discussion of life because the persona’s numbness and desire to live.
“”A woman like that is misunderstood,” Sexton adds wryly, but the poem is a serious attempt to understand such a woman–her sense of estrangement, her impulse toward death–by internalizing evil and giving it a voice: a chortling, self-satisfied, altogether amiable voice which suggests that “evil” is perhaps the wrong word after all (Johnson).” Death is not an issue with the persona of the poem. She is not afraid of the things around her for she is already numb with the things around her especially the cruelty of life within her. This is what Johnson has perceived in his analysis to the poem. The strength and power of the persona brought significant aspect of women empowerment into the society of oppressed women. It is a knowledge that women need to acquire as what the narrator illustrated in her tenses.
In general, Sexton made a significant attack in her poem. The way she treated her persona and narrator showed the element control and activeness. “She is a kind of perverse entertainer, and if she seems cast in the role of a martyr, embracing madness in order to domesticate it for the rest of the community–making it seem less threatening, perhaps even enjoyable–it is nevertheless a martyrdom which this aspect of Sexton accepts with a peculiar zest (Johnson).” Despite of the tragic life of the character in the poem, she remained thoughtful with her life. Though she is not afraid of death, she live her life to the fullest. She wanted everything to be challenging and strange because this is how her life works through her ideas and personality. Therefore, it is true that the uniqueness and beauty of the narrator and persona started from the side of darkness and went through the light of humility and personal salvation.
Johnson, Greg. “The Achievement of Anne Sexton.” The Hollins Critic, 1984
Middlerbrook, Diane Wood. Anne Sexton: A Biography. Copyright © 1991
Kennedy, X. J. and Dana Gioia. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. New York: Longman, 2007.