Initiation – the Short Story
Initiation is a story of group exclusivity, self exploration and personal transformation of a girl in Lansing High. It is the story of Millicent, who discovers that being an individual offers more opportunities than being part of a sorority. In Initiation, the author, Sylvia Plath expresses the hardships Millicent undergoes to become a member of the elect. Millicent is forced to go through several rituals which decide whether she is capable of joining the sorority.
At first Millicent is delighted and proud that she will finally be part of a society however during the process of initiation, she is slowly recognizing that being a member of a society is not as thrilling and exhilarating as it sounds, and being an individual presents more opportunities to become an exceptional and sole person. Moreover, Millicent is evolving into a more independent person, having picked her freedom over the image as a part of the sorority. Furthermore, Millicent learns to face her fears, having completed the difficult tasks which help her overcome her uncertainties.
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Millicent is an average girl who no one really notices until a sorority chooses her as a nominee to join their group but she must pass their initiation tests first. “What girl would not want to be one of the elect, no matter if it did mean five days of initiation before and after school, ending in the climax of Rat Court on Friday night when they made the new girls members? ” (Plath) When Millicent first hears she is nominated to receive an invitation to join the elect, she is amused but also confident to pass the five day initiation process at any cost.
As Millicent gets to know more about what happens in the sorority from a current member of the society, “they have a meeting once a week…each girl takes turns entertaining at her house…,”(Plath) Millicent quickly starts to lose interest in being a part of the elect as they have no final destination. Millicent is also regarding the idea of not joining because her individuality and uniqueness will be lost “It was a denial of individuality” (Plath), due to the fact that in a sorority every girl is alike, with narrow personalities. …Millicent visualized them, pale grey-brown birds in a flock, one like the other, all exactly alike. ” (Plath)
This reference proves that Millicent realizes that being a member of the sorority will simply allow her to approach Herb and become famous but will change her relationship with Tracy, her best friend, and rest of the world. In addition, the process of Initiation teaches Millicent that sometimes one doesn’t have to belong to a club to feel related to other human beings. “…a triumphant answer to the music of the darting heather birds that sang so clear and lilting over the far lands.
And she knew that her own private initiation had just begun. ” (Plath) In reference to the heather birds in the previous quote, Millicent chooses her individuality over the label of the sorority which exhibits her uniqueness and conforms that she is an independent and special entity. Throughout the story, Millicent is scared and anxious as she has to complete embarrassing tasks in order to join the sorority. “The “gophers” had to do a Charleston step all the way to school and each one had her own songs to sing, trying to drown out the other four. (Plath) One of the tasks requires Millicent to ask people what they had for breakfast, “I want you to go up and down the bus asking people what they eat for breakfast…. How will I ever do it, going up to all those stony-faced people who are staring coldly out the window. ” (Plath) Upon hearing her next task Millicent is nervous because she has low self-confidence and she is also afraid of talking to the stony-faced people in the bus.
As Millicent asks people what they have for breakfast, she approaches a man who makes her realize that she needs to be more confident and needs to listen to herself if she wants to achieve her goals. And from that time on, initiations didn’t bother Millicent at all. ” (Plath) Millicent gains the courage to face her weaknesses as she comprehends that all she has to do is to be confident and bold. “And really, you didn’t have to belong to a club to feel related to other human beings. ” (Plath) In addition, the quote provides evidence to support the facts that sometimes change is necessary to discover one’s hidden potential and live life to the fullest. Furthermore, throughout the story Initiation, Millicent faces pressure to give into the conformity of others.
In the beginning, Millicent conforms to the idea of being part of the elect. However through the experience of initiation, Millicent starts to notice the significance of independence and liberty, things that she can’t have as a member of the society. Although the sorority leads her through the easy path towards fame, her self-rule and personality will be restricted by the rules and policies set by the sorority. In the end Millicent opts for the better option by not joining the sorority, as she values her independence and individuality more than having the label of the sorority as her shadow.