In a world where women in the same field are often pitted against each other, it can be especially nice to hear about a (relatively) healthy friendship between two female poets, such as that between Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. The two women bounced ideas off of each other, possibly inspiring the others poetry at times. Above, I say that their relationship was relatively healthy because one of the things that Plath and Sexton really bonded over was their shared preoccupation with death and suicide. It can perhaps be seen as healthy that the women had someone with which to share their thoughts on what is often seen as a rather taboo subject. However, this relationship based on a fascination with death can also been viewed as having been unhealthy. In Sexton’s poem Sylvia’s Death, written after Plath’s suicide, there seems to have been a nearly competitive slant to the relationship, almost as if Sexton is upset that Plath succeeded in dying before she did.

Thief –
how did you crawl into,
crawl down alone
into the death I wanted so badly and for so long

This can be read as if Sexton believes that Plath stole death from her, or “our boy,” as the two would call it. This definitely adds credence to the idea that their relationship, if based mainly on discussing death, was certainly unhealthy.

In contrast to this, by the end of the poem it seems as if Sexton is upset with Plath for committing suicide, no longer because she is jealous, but because she sees it as a wasted life. This adds a level of complexity to the relationship between the two women. Perhaps they were not only discussing death with each other but attempting to keep the other alive. We’ll never know what this friendship was truly like, as unfortunately Sexton herself went on to commit suicide, a decade after Plath. We can only know what they revealed through their poetry.

Images: Plath is seen on the left, Sexton on the right.

4 thoughts on “Their Boy

  1. I love how you tied this into their friendship and dug a little deeper! It would be difficult to understand the poem without the context of their friendship.

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  2. I liked that you focused on their friendship and how it affected their writing. Parts of their poetry was almost like it was written for each other, but we wouldn’t know that without knowing a bit about their friendship.

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  3. I really liked your breakdown of Sexton’s friendship with Plath, and I think you tied it in well with Sexton’s homage to Plath. I agree that their work is the only insight we have into the connection they shared, and that their relationship was very complex and beautiful (though morbid, very morbid). Well done!

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  4. I love how you really focused on their friendship and how their writings really supported each other. I also find it interesting that you said that Sexton was jealous of Perth. I really do love that the two writings are connected though their friendship, great analysis overall!

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