Poem Comparison Essay
April 17, 2014
The poems “Her Kind” by Anne Sexton, and “I am Vertical” by Sylvia Plath contain numerous
differences like structure, tone and rhythm. After breaking down both readings, these poems contain
common themes; individual identity, society, isolation, and death are themes portrayed in both poems.
The differences of the symbolism of these common themes help visualize a difference between the
importance of accepting yourself and being accepted.
Abnormality of the individual’s identity was a first common theme between both poems. In “Her
Kind”, the line: “I have gone out, a possessed witch,” (1) helps imagine the sense of how she is an
outcast and since it is in past tense, this can imply the speaker may be capable of going in and out of a
possessed state of mind. Line: “lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind” (“Her Kind” 5) continues the
speaker’s description of what others think of her and referring to herself as a “thing” is dehumanizing
and takes away the idea of a “normal” person. In the poem “I am Vertical”, the first line tells the reader
that the identity of the speaker is not as appealing as the rest of her world: “But I would rather be
horizontal” (1) helps the reader notice the jealousy of the life she does not have like the rest. This first
stanza goes into detail of a life she’d “rather” have with love, beauty, and nurturance. A better
understanding of wanting what everything surrounding her has, builds up the idea of her lacking the
“norm” as the speaker gazes into happiness when imagining what she’d rather be.
In both poems, the speakers’ identities are similarly envisioned as “abnormal”... Society is
another theme that comes into play with both poems, but are portrayed in different ways. In “Her
Kind”, society is what reflects the speaker’s identity as negative. In lines: “-survivor / where your flames
still bite my thigh / and my ribs crack where your wheels wind” (17-19), the treatment of the speaker
from society makes her live in a brutal and violent world. Others’ “flames” bite her “thigh” to condemn
her for being who she is and not being like them. While the speaker is not left alone for her “abnormal”
identity in “Her Kind”, society’s treatment in “I am Vertical” is the opposite in line: “I walk among them,
but none of them are noticing” (Plath 13). This line in the poem shows a desperation of attention to the
world around her and the lack of acknowledgement she receives in return. As the speaker is hopeful
and craves to be like what surrounds her, she concludes being vertical like the trees and flowers does
not make her like them, “normal”.
Both poems have a society that leads to isolation for the speaker due to not fitting into the norm.
In the line: “haunting the black air, braver at night;” (“Her Kind” 2), gives the sense of isolation in her life
unsimilar to to the rest of the world. Being “braver” at night appears that the speaker finds being outside
of everyday life more appealing when she is alone and capable of letting her real identity come out. In
stanza 2 of Plath’s poem, the speaker comes to terms with the idea that the trees and flowers are
completely indifferent to her and isolates her for this; “I must most perfectly resemble them--” (15). The
speaker not fitting in the norm causes a desperation of possessing qualities of what she is not and what
would end the isolated feeling of herself in society. The speaker in Sexton’s poem isolates herself from
society, and seems to take pride in being considered what social forces have shaped her into who she
is, the outcast. In Plath’s poem, clearly the speaker experiences the feeling of alienation also but longed
for the attention of society; while Sexton’s speaker tried avoiding the “norm” and seeked solitude as a
solution, Plath’s speaker craved the “norm” and sought solitude out as the issue.
The last common theme…