Analysis of Poem "Her Kind" by Anne Sexton

Updated on May 2, 2017
chef-de-jour profile image

Andrew has a keen interest in all aspects of poetry and writes extensively on the subject. His poems are published online and in print.

Anne Sexton
Anne Sexton | Source

Anne Sexton and Her Kind

Her Kind is a short poem which, although not directly confessional, deals with the nature of the woman's role in life and the alienation that can bring. It has strong imagery, like that from a fairytale, and hints at death and sexuality.

Anne Sexton began writing poetry after suffering depression and was keenly aware of her different personas - she was a loving wife and mother as well as a performing poet, but her ongoing mental health issues forced her into very dark places from time to time.

Her Kind has featured in all manner of anthology and has also been published in magazines such as The British Journal of Psychiatry.

The poem attempts to capture this idea of the woman with multiple personalities, expected to conform to societal rules and norms yet unable or unwilling to restrict the self. And so the boundaries are tested by the suburban witch, who is the wild mother and the fateful femme fatale.

By using the metaphorical witch persona, Anne Sexton is connecting her current feelings as an outcast and oddball, with those of the historical witch, persecuted and misunderstood for being 'different.'

Her Kind


I have gone out, a possessed witch,

haunting the black air, braver at night;

dreaming evil, I have done my hitch

over the plain houses, light by light:

lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.

A woman like that is not a woman, quite.

I have been her kind.


I have found the warm caves in the woods,

filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,

closets, silks, innumerable goods;

fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:

whining, rearranging the disaligned.

A woman like that is misunderstood.

I have been her kind.


I have ridden in your cart, driver,

waved my nude arms at villages going by,

learning the last bright routes, survivor

where your flames still bite my thigh

and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.

A woman like that is not ashamed to die.

I have been her kind.

Analysis of Her Kind

Her Kind has tight rhyme and loose rhythm. The end rhymes are all full whilst the rhythm, the beats, are roughly iambic yet definitely off the beaten track, a reflection of the speaker's dance with alternative states of being.

  • Note the lines with nine syllables and some with ten and eleven, taking the reader further away from convention.

Seven lines per stanza, the magical number, and three personas inhabiting the poem make for a rich if temptingly ambiguous read. The speaker is certainly one who has, to quote Robert Frost, 'been acquainted with the night' and presumably returns to the real world, like some adventuring, malevolent vampire, once the sun is up.

Analysis Stanza by Stanza of Her Kind

First Stanza

Written in the first person, Her Kind is a poem about subversity, the speaker acknowledging that she has been all three personas at some time in her life - the witch, the mother, the adulteress. It is stated matter of factly in the last line of each stanza: I have been her kind.

The speaker has been a witch, metaphorically of course, possessed by a demon spirit, which immediately suggests that this persona is supernatural, inhabiting a world beyond normal thought and culture. The language is dark, weird and gothic; note the use of possessed, haunting, black, evil, lonely, twelve fingered, out of mind.

She is flying over the plain houses of suburbia, implying that down there life is ordinary and boring and tedious and the only way to overcome it is to live in the darker dream, to stretch the limits of sanity. The judgemental eyes of surburbia are on her during the day, so best emerge at night.

This is no ordinary witch, she has twelve fingers (which makes her a bit freaky and is bound to alienate people), is lonely and doesn't function well in the daylight, doesn't get on in the 9 - 5 world, and doesn't quite feel a complete woman when she's in this mode of being.

  • Hitch is an unusual word to use and done my hitch even more of a challenge to understand.To hitch-hike is to travel on the road thumbing a lift. A hitch is some minor problem or issue. To hitch is to jerkily move something, to connect - and this meaning seems to work best in this context.

Second Stanza

Anne Sexton loved fairytales and myths and the second stanza takes the reader further out into this other world and an alternative role to that of the suburban housewife. Again, this could be the metaphorical witch discovering the caves.

A cave is an archetypal home or safe-place where traditionally things of great value are stored, such as gold or treasure. The fact that this cave is in a wood adds another layer of symbolism to this story, the wood being the place where people get lost, meet good or evil entities, experience a breakthrough.

Possessions become a focus, from a skillet to silks, that is, objects from the middle-class kitchen to the perfumed bedroom. And the offspring have to be fed, be they worm or elf, keeping everything in its right order.

The role of the lonely housewife, looking after the home and the kids, is brought into sharp focus in this second stanza. Although Sexton wrote this poem at a time when most women were expected to be queens of the domestic scene, before the onset of feminism, the issue still resonates today.

Women who are stigmatised for living life unconventionally are misunderstood by society. The speaker, in candid fashion, admits that she has experienced society's wrong judgement.

Third Stanza Her Kind

Third Stanza

The third stanza continues with the witch theme, this time introducing a medieval torture device, the wheel, and execution by fire. Witches were tortured and burnt at the stake (notably in 17th century Europe and in Salem USA).

Sexton is presenting the reader with the idea that she (the speaker) is the equivalent to a 17th century witch and that all women are potentially threatened by society if they are deemed unconventional or unworthy.

In a bold sixth line the speaker claims that she is not ashamed to die (for living an alternative life) because she has done no wrong. Society is to blame, for it forces individuals to conform and if they find fault then these individuals are put on trial, and ultimately, eliminated.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Andrew Spacey

    Comments

    Submit a Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)