Her Kind by Anne Sexton (Analysis)

7 July 2016

Anne Sexton’s ‘Her Kind’ is a poem in which the speaker’s pain is expressed through vivid imagery and dismal repetition. The title of this poem is a portion of the refrain, “I have been her kind” seen in lines 17, 14 and 21. This eludes the reader into thinking they are in the third person observing the speaker’s own life. However, we are actually accompanying them as they peer into the lives of others who are each given different labels such as the witch, the distressed housewife and the persecuted.

The rhyme scheme of this poem is ABABCBC which is seven lines, an odd number, which shows that while there indeed is a pattern it is not an even amount of lines which is done purposely to represent the irregularity and imbalance in the life of the speaker. In the first stanza we see a lonesome witch who lurks her neighbourhood solemnly. In the second stanza we peer into the “warm caves”(8) which are where the tedious mother/wife resides who constantly perfects things due to the lack of structure in her own life.

The third and most powerful stanza we see the martyr who is self-empowered and remains true to herself as she rides in a cart towards her death. The phrases “ridden in your cart”(15) and “flames still bite my thigh”(18) are allusions to the Salem Witch Trials in which “witches” rode in carts to be burned at the stake. Imagery is a significant device in this poem which assists in helping the reader understand the speaker’s suffering from the isolation she faces from society.

Using terms such as “twelve fingered” (5), “lonely thing” (5) and “haunting the black air”(2) to describe her alienation and how she floats through life as though nobody acknowledges her existence. In the first stanza the lines are split with commas which creates a choppy, monotonous effect. This shows that she is simply going through the motions of life, a prosaic being devoid of emotion or motivation to live. Repetition plays a notable role in this poem as it gives us a sense that the speaker relates to these different personas.

The speaker has a multifaceted personality as she morphs from one identity to the other in order to feel accepted by society. Right off the bat we see “I have” in the first line of the first stanza which is repeated in lines 8 and 15 as a declaration; this shows that it is a direct confession from the speaker themselves. Also, the phrase “A woman like that” is used in lines 6, 13 and 20 to show a generalized spectrum of women who have felt detached from society.

One of the most important devices used in this poem is the refrain which is “I have been her kind”. This shows that she is not the same person as the witch, housewife or martyr but instead they are all elaborate metaphors to portray what she herself is experiencing in life. The witch is not merely just an image in this poem, it is an extended metaphor which lasts throughout the whole poem, otherwise known as a conceit, to represent women who feel detached from society.

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