(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Anne Sexton’s elder daughter’s memoir recalls 45 Mercy Street (1969). Linda Gray Sexton, in her memoir, seeks to understand the complexities of her mother’s mental illnesses—that her mother had greater disorders than depression and mania. Linda Gray has been to several analysts herself and has gone through a period of clinical depression.

One of the daughter’s goals in this work is to put to rest all the speculation of what it must have been like to live with Anne. One may also argue that Linda Gray wants, through her writing, to reclaim her childhood, including the good times, when her mother was not in hospitals and emergency rooms or when her mother was not ignoring her and her sister in order to go into her study to write poetry.

Once the influence of poetry took, Anne became another woman. She was no longer content to be a decorative part of the house, nor to strut her beauty in downtown Boston. She sat for hours in her study, clacking away on her typewriter, chain-smoking cigarettes and staying up until the early hours of the morning. Then she had to take tranquilizers to sleep, and she would sleep until late afternoon. Linda Gray tells horrific stories, one of her mother showing her her extra pills: a quart bottle filled to capacity sitting in the back of her closet. No wonder her mother always had pills for her suicide attempts.

The author also tells of the time her father insisted that the family sit...

(The entire section is 409 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Hall, Caroline King Barnard. Anne Sexton. Boston: Twayne, 1989.

McClatchy, J. D. Anne Sexton: The Artist and Her Critics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978.

Middlebrook, Diane Wood. Anne Sexton: A Biography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991.

Sexton, Anne. Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977.