"Courage" by Anne Sexton

758 Words4 Pages
In her poem “Courage,” Anne Sexton depicts life as so full of hurdles, mundane and formidable, that simply to face the everyday of life is to exhibit courage. It may be as rudimentary as a “child’s first step”(L. 2), as provocative as questioning the meaning of courage itself or as transformational as the therapeutic acceptance of life’s realities, especially the end of life itself. Throughout the poem Sexton provides universal life events as metaphors for ways in which people courageously confront life’s hardships and, in doing so, strengthen their will and resilience. Her voice is, therefore, a song of hope as well as despair. From the start, life presents people with hurdles however small that evokes one’s innate and contrived courage. Curious by nature, infants and toddlers innately struggle to explore their world and dabble in challenge. The “child’s first step/as awesome as an earthquake./The first time you rode a bike,/wallowing up the sidewalk”(LL. 2-5): the metaphors are seemingly so irrelevant to courage; yet, their meaning is powerful . Those early events in life seemed, then, so earth shattering. That first step truly does transforms one’s world, opening so many doors, inclusive of that first, shaky bike ride. Yet, Sexton also explains that courage is more than acts of personal achievement: it is also the internalization of pain to protect oneself from the insults and injustices of others. So vulnerable to life’s cruelties, children must find ways to contrive some of their courage. Thus, they “Drank their acid / and concealed it” (LL. 11-12). That is, children deflect the trauma of their “spankings” (L. 6), taunting insults and “alien” (L. 10) status with an emotional facade that hides the indelible scars. In late adolescence and early adulthood, first steps become critical encounters with inhumanity on a universal scale: war and what it brings to
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