Describe the woman who is the speaker of “Her Kind” by Anne Sexton

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Anne Sexton is a confessional poet who draws historical and mythical analogies to her battle with bipolar disorder, depression, and suicide.

In "Her Kind," Sexton's speaker compares herself to a witch--an archetype of a misunderstood outcast, a hag, an evil enchantress, and--proudly--a woman condemned to death.  Her speaker identifies with a witch in terms of gender roles, domestic duties, and execution.  Sexton's speaker feels trapped by society's labels, yet she is not defensive or "ashamed to die."  So says Enotes:

The poem recalls an earlier statement of identity, “Her Kind,” in which the speaker presents herself as a witch who is lonely, misunderstood, insane, and unashamed to die in the course of her journey. The comparison of Sexton’s poetry with the black arts places her work on the level of myth, particularly in her pursuit of death itself.

The speaker echoes the feminine hero's death wishes of tragedy: Antigone, Lady Macbeth, and the three witches in Macbeth.  These women assumed manly roles and--like soldiers--did not fear death.

Another critic, Diane Wood Middlebrook, focuses on the roles of the speaker:

Through the use of an undifferentiated but double "I," the poem sets up a single persona identified with madness but separated from it through insight. Two points of view are designated "I" in each stanza. The witch (stanza one), the housewife (stanza two), and the adulteress (stanza three) are those who act, or act out; in the refrain, an "I" steps through the frame of "like that" to witness, interpret, and affirm her alter ego in the same line. The double subjectivity of "Her Kind," as Sexton now called the poem, cleverly finds a way to represent a condition symbolized not in words but in symptoms that yearn to be comprehended. "Her Kind" contains its own perfect reader, its own namesake, "I."

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