The Comparison and Contrast of Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath

Topics: Sylvia Plath, Poetry, Stanza Pages: 5 (1643 words) Published: April 2, 2013
LaStacia Bradley
Instructor McBride
English 1023
June 29th, 2012
The Comparison and Contrast of Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath
The two poems, “And One for My Dame” by Anne Sexton and “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath, both explore similar themes through the use of literary elements such as structure, tone and symbolism. Structures in each poem are alike with length but differ with the actual form. The tone Plath conveys is negative one while Sexton’s is more neutral. The symbolism in “Daddy” was also negative with symbols of the devil but Sexton used a nursery rhyme as a symbol. The connotations of these elements reflect the image the daughters had of their fathers but also the relationships. These poems also both deal with the theme of identity and convey how the relationship of father and daughter consequently affects the daughter’s feelings towards her father later on in life. However, in “Daddy”, Plath shows the relationship between father and daughter to be negative and bitter, while in “And One for My Dame” Sexton conveys the relationship between the two to be objective and almost uncertain.

The first literary element that can be evaluated is structure. In Plath’s poem, there are a total of sixteen stanzas with each having five lines. These are more lengthy stanzas than Sextons, which allow for more elaboration and a chance for the other literary elements, such as tone, to be noticed. For example, it says “Every woman adores a Fascist,/ The boot in the face, the brute/ Brute heart of a brute like you” (48-50). From this it is seen that the dad is compared to a brute which has a negative connotation and therefore the reader can interpret the relationship as a broken one. Also, Plath uses apostrophe to highlight the relationship. Throughout the poem she uses first person to make it personal but she talks to her dad who is dead. She directly speaks to him she as recalls his death saying “I was ten when they buried you./ At twenty when they I tried to die/ And get back (…) to you” and by mentioning this it conveys the message that the speaker has not yet let go of the harmful relationship (57-59).

Sexton also has a total of sixteen stanzas but in contrast each stanza only has three lines. The shorter stanza’s can cause for less insight and description but she uses enjambment to keep the poem flowing instead of choppy. For example, she begins speaking of her father in a decent way but flows into speaking of his flaws of how “he hid/ in his bedroom on a three-day drunk” but then ultimately flows back into the respectful memory (22-23). The constant flow of the poem also could reflect how her thoughts of her father are constant and how he has a never ending influence on her life because of this cycle. Unlike Plath, Sexton does use a rhyme scheme in her poem. The rhyme schemes help the poem flow along in a sing-song way that reflects a much lighter attitude that Sexton has in her father’s memory. In lines 10-12, the A-B-B rhyme scheme is a good example “Each word/ had been tried over and over, at any rate,/ on the man who was sold by the man who filled my plate.” Noticeably, her father would be seen as a provider and storyteller by the readers.

Another literary element that Plath uses to convey the theme is tone. This element is the most noticeable because it is used heavily. The tone of Plath’s poem is negative and it is shown through the diction which mirrors the damaging relationship between her and her father. In lines 56-60, she says “I was ten when they buried you/. At twenty I tried to die/ And get back (…) to you/ I thought even the bones would do” (56-60). From this the reader learns that she tried to commit suicide because she wanted to back in his presence. Also, she directly speaks of how their relationship was strained in lines 24-26 saying, “I never could talk to you./ The tongue stuck in my jaw./ It stuck in a barb wire snare” (24-26). Plath was meaning that she never felt she could speak to him when...

Cited: Plath, Sylvia. “Daddy.” Norton Anthology of Poetry. 5th Edition. Ed. Margaret Furgeson, Jon Stallworthy, Mary Joe Salter. Boston: 2005. 1145-1147. Print.
Sexton, Anne. “And One for My Dame.” Norton Anthology of Poetry. 5th Edition. Ed. Margaret Furgeson, Jon Stallworthy, Mary Joe Salter. Boston: 2005. 1097-1098. Print.
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