Writing on Women Writers

A site for college students to write about women writers.

The A word – Sexton dares to write about Abortion

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Being  a remarkable confessional poet, Anne Sexton is most famous for her works on controversial subjects such as depression, suicidal tendencies, abortion, sexuality, addiction, and the female body.

“Much of Anne Sexton’s poetry is autobiographical and concentrates on her deeply personal feelings, especially anguish. In particular, many of her poems record her battles with mental illness” (Poetry Foundation).

In Sexton’s poem, “The Abortion” (532).  the speaker begins with the abrupt and painfully accurate line, stating “Somebody who should have been born is gone.”  The bluntly reminds the reader, yes, the person who undergoes this procedure does infant realize exactly what they are doing.


The voice of the speaker then proceeds to write with imagery, describing a beautiful landscape, with “Blue Mountains, where Pennsylvania humps on endlessly, wearing like a crayoned cat, its green hair.”

Smack dab in the middle of the poem, The speaker writes again, “Somebody who should have born is gone,” almost symbolizing how in the midst of the beautiful and serene moments of life, one will remember what had happened to them- A horrible and constant reminder.

The speaker continues to describe their surroundings, “The grass bristly and stout as chives,” but then goes into the mind of the speaker, “and me wondering when the ground would break/ and me wondering how anything fragle survives,” obviously refering to the fetus that they had aborted, again, another horrible reminder of they pregnancy that they lost.

Within the seventh stanza, the speaker introdudes the character “Rumpelstiltskin,” the fiction character within in a childhood fable. This introduction of the character helps the reader remember, that “Somebody who should have been born is gone,” would eventually have been a child who would have heard stories involving this character. This play on emotions helps strentgthen the  grave impact on the reader.

The last stanza of the poem breaks out of the imagery and speaks to the audience about the abortion. Sexton writes,

“Yes, Woman, such logic will lead

to loss without death. Or say what you meant,

you coward….this baby that I bleed.” (533).

“lead to loss without death” describes the rationale that an abortion leads to loss of a pregnancy, but it does not cause death, because there was never life to take a away. The speaker seems to be condemning them selves, almost yelling, “Or say what you mean,” telling themselves to say what they mean to say, rather than sugar coating it to make themselves feel better. The speaker understands that this action had to be done, by use of the word “logic”, but the anger and harshness leads the reader to believe the remorse of the speaker.




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