[SOLUTION] Female Empowerment in Anne Sexton’s ‘The Breast’

This is a GENDER AND CULTURE essay and so it needs to have the following:
-Evidence of confident knowledge and understanding of primary texts, and diligent critical reading. The essay will use primary and secondary material with growing critical awareness.
-thesis: Sexton uses (and is known as such a writer) confessional style narrative and vulgar, grotesque language to detail the journey of the beast in parallel to gender/sexuality construction by the patriarchal society. Strategically, Sexton’s confessional style and grotesque becomes a covert literary device that empowers women; the vulgar words are reality- biological, functional, given to the process of maturation by the patriarchy. But words only women know the meaning of/experience and which ultimately turns men off reading her work (this itself is quite resistant!). This ‘female voice’ is used
to empower women to understand what they possess and to reclaim their sexuality (Towards the end of the poem and particularly the last line ‘i burn the way money burn’.
-Essay considerations:

-historical context needs to be woven through the argument: confessional poetry and broader social themes relating to it, and its focus on the personal/I,. how does this relate to the poem?

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-critical engagement with author’s contemporary Sylvia Plath (to show how confessional poetry was used by women to show the social realities of the twentieth century. though Plath approached it in a different way to Sexton.
-loss permeates the poem to signify innocence of childhood to the gendered practices of adulthood. Line ‘But your hands found me like an architect’= society is the architect? gender is a social construct? Judith Butler is an academic voice on this discourse.

-the functionality of the breast, like other aspects of the female form are largely defined by sources (men, children, society) with the breast viewed as a source of of wonder, pleasure, sensual delight, pain, humiliation and anguish. food ( this is what is meant by the first line of the poetry ‘It is the key to everything’). Sexton redefines its function at the end of the poem where the first line ties to the last (women possess the key to everything- money is not ‘burnt’ (spent) through it’s own doing, but that of the possessor- likewise women can choose how they ‘burn (spend/choose- and not be defined by society)

-The use lexical repetitions to emphasise these significant image; (i, your, here) are repeated.

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