Examination Of Anne Sexton'S The Abortion

3334 Words14 Pages
[S]he who is without sin… Can we forgive the woman who transgresses? An examination of The Abortion as Anne Sexton’s participation in the pro-life/ pro-choice debate. The stark, painful disclosures of Anne Sexton’s poetry make a distinction between poet and persona difficult at times. The fact that her writing was encouraged as part of her therapy adds to the critic’s dilemma in separating fact from fiction when reading Sexton’s work. There is at times a tendency to assume that the troubled persona in the poems is necessarily Anne Sexton. While avoiding this trap, for the purpose of this paper I will assume that on one level the voices in the poem to be discussed may be considered to be Anne Sexton’s, not as the star of this drama, rather as an interrogator of abortion. In an interview in September 1973 when speaking to William Heyen and Al Poulin, Sexton addressed the common misconception that her poems are really her personal fictionalized experience. She related an anecdote in which someone enquired about her brother about whom she had written. Sexton said, ‘I had no brother, but then didn’t we all have brothers who died in that war? But didn’t we all, somehow, have brothers?’ In her treatment of the woman in The Abortion I believe for Sexton the same rule applies, i.e. she views the persona as her sister and friend, and hence our sister and friend. Therefore, in addition to Sexton’s voice, some of the voices we hear in the poem may be our own as we respond to a choice our ‘sister’ made. What Sexton succeeds in doing is delineating a fallen woman at whom we have no desire to cast the first stone. Whatever our ideological beliefs may be, Sexton’s portrayal of this fallen woman focuses not only on the persona’s transgression, but also on her awareness of it that results in the almost tangible guilt and sadness that plague her. This woman’s feelings of
Open Document