Study Guide

Anne Sexton

by Anne Gray Harvey

Anne Sexton Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Sexton’s direct and personal poetry forcefully imparts her obsession with loss, suicide, and the authoritarian male figure. Her recurrent images, bones and rats and other reminders of death and psychic torment, retain their ability to surprise and shock the reader, despite their repetition. She always has an original twist that violates expectations and leads the reader to question his or her assumptions. In her poetry Sexton seems to skim over experience like a magnet attracting iron filings, seeking out suicidal soulmates in literature, history, folklore, and her daily life. However, the intensity of Sexton’s poetry makes up for the narrowness of its range. Her work serves to define and illustrate confessional poetry.