Literature by Women
3 December 2004
And the Clock Struck Reality: Anne Sexton's retelling of Cinderella Michelangelo, perhaps the most gifted sculptor and painter of all times, once said that "geniuses stand on the shoulders of other geniuses." As Michelangelo built upon the brilliance of his predecessors, Anne Sexton does the same with her poem "Cinderella". Fairy tales originated as oral traditions and were passed along and sculpted by thousands of story tellers. Each raconteur changes elements in the story to fit their individual needs. Sexton reinvents "Cinderella" as a poem and integrates the story with her own opinion and commentary. Sexton's version of this classic story contrasts the rosy images of human happiness conjured by fantasy with the banality, decay, and despair of everyday life. She conveys this message with a sadistic tone and modern language, while drawing upon her own hardships and American culture. Throughout her life, Anne had many personal struggles. Her childhood, though privileged in monetary terms, was also one of deprivation and abuse. Anne's mother and father both struggled with alcoholism, a struggle which, according to her biographers, influenced Sexton's substance abuses later in life. In addition to the alcoholism, Sexton also experienced other abuses by her parents; Sexton's biographers describe her mother as "neglectful" and her father as verbally abusive (Middlebrook 57). Anne Sexton attended Garland Junior College for only one year and married Alfred Sexton in 1948 at the age of 19. Their marriage was unstable and Anne Sexton was continually engaged in extra-marital affairs. A few years into union, Anne had two children, Linda and Joy, and was hospitalized for postpartum depression after the birth of both children (McCartan 2). Her depression was severe, and Sexton was suicidal for most of her adult life. On October 4, 1974, shortly after the release of Transformations, Anne could no longer...