Sylvia Plath

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In "Initiation," do you agree or disagree with Millicent's choice not to join the sorority?

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It's hard not to agree with Millicent's choice to turn down the sorority at the end of Plath's story "Initiation." First, Millicent has a number of logical reasons not to join. Her best friend, Tracy, was not invited into the sorority, and Millicent knows if she becomes part of this prestigious and exclusive club, it will pull her away from this dear friend. Millicent also realizes that the sorority rejected Tracy for silly and superficial reasons, such as her wearing knee socks and carrying a bookbag, rather than getting to know her as a person. Millicent learns that the sorority is shallow in other ways too: for example, what she will primarily do once she is in is be entertained at the other girls' houses.

During her initiation, in which she has to reach out to strangers, such as by asking everyone on a bus what they eat for breakfast, Millicent discovers that there is a world of friendly people beyond the sorority.

Near the end of her initiation, when Millicent has to decide whether to accept joining the sorority, she sees a group of sparrows and recognizes that if she joins the sorority, she will be just like them, "pale gray brown birds in a flock, one like the other, all exactly alike." She would prefer to be like the heather bird a man on the bus told her about:

Swooping carefree over the moors, they would go singing and crying out across the great spaces of air, dipping and darting, strong and proud in their freedom and their sometime loneliness.

For Millicent the conformity and shallowness of the sorority is constricting. She chooses the broader world, where she can be friends with everyone, not just the chosen few. Because we have been walking beside her as she has gone through her initiation, we see from her point of view why she might be proud to be chosen for membership and to have made it through the initiation, but why actually joining the sorority would be stifling rather than liberating for her.

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