Picture Perfect: Anne Sexton’s “The Double Image” Reflects the Poet as Daughter, Mother, and Anorectic

  • Jessica Mehta University of Exeter, United Kingdom
Keywords: Anorexia, Confessional Poetry, Anne Sexton, “The Double Image,” Eating Disorder, Poetry

Abstract

Anne Sexton’s poem “The Double Image” is explored, delving into the complexities of the role of the author as confessional poet, daughter, mother, and anorectic. This piece begins by noting the differences between the final published piece and the earlier drafts of the poem, focusing on the subtle differences and attempting to decipher why these changes were made. The significance of Sexton’s childhood home in the poem is noted, as this is seen to infantilise the author and creates a narcissistic regression often seen in anorectic patients. Sexton’s recurrent mouth imagery is addressed, as it is the gateway for food (or lack thereof) and plays a crucial role in the works of Sexton throughout her work and life. This topic is further developed into using hunger and eating metaphorically by Sexton, noting that as a daughter she engulfed everything in her mother’s world. The placement of the portraits in the poem is another aspect that Sexton changes consistently throughout the drafts and this piece delves into theories of the significance the position of the portraits might have had. This piece ends with the importance the color green has for the author in her work, possibly linking it to the choice of using green for the wicked within the original technicolor version of The Wizard of Oz (LeRoy & Fleming, 1939).

Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

References

Bachelard, G. (2014). The Poetics of Space. Penguin.
Beaumont, J. M. (2016). The Speaker in This Case: Anne Sexton at Tale-Teller in Transformations. This Business of Words: Reassessing Anne Sexton. (A. Golden, Ed.) UP of Florida.
Bruch, H. (1979). Eating Disorders: Obesity, Anorexia Nervosa, and the Person Within. Basic Books.
Cobb, S. (1950). Emotions and Clinical Medicine. WW Norton & Co Inc.
Colburn, S. (1988). Anne Sexton: Telling the Tale. University of Michigan Press.
Conway, J. (2016). Coming to Terms with Anne Sexton’s Late Poetics and Public Persona. This Business of Words: Reassessing Anne Sexton. (A. Golden, Ed.) UP Florida.
Dorfman, E. (1981). Portrait of the Portrait Photographer. The Journal of New England Photography, 2, Winter, 1–14.
Furst, A. (2000). Anne Sexton: The Last Summer. St. Martin’s.
Gill, J. (2007). Anne Sexton’s Confessional Poetics. UP Florida.
Gill, J. (2016). Reading Place and Space in the Poetry of Anne Sexton. This Business of Words: Reassessing Anne Sexton. UP Florida.
Gull, W. (1873). Anorexia Nervosa (Apepsia Hysterica, Anorexia Hysterica). Obesity Research, 5 (1), 498 – 502.
Hedley, J. (2000). I Made You to Find Me: Sexton, Lowell, and the Gender of Parenthood. Raritan, 19 (3), 87-114.
Helle, A. (2016). Anne Sexton’s Photographic Self-Fashioning. This Business of Words: Reassessing Anne Sexton. (A. Golden, Ed.) UP Florida.
Holdstein, D & Bleich, D. (2001). Personal Effects: The Social Character of Scholarly Writing. All USU P Publications.
Jack, R. (1986). Anorexia, Allergy or Arsenic? British Homeopathic Journal, 72 (1), 28 - 36.
Javadizadeh, K. (2016). Anne Sexton’s Institutional Voice. This Business of Words: Reassessing Anne Sexton. UP Florida.
LeRoy, M. (Producer), & Fleming, V. (Director). (1939). The Wizard of Oz [Motion Picture]. United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Lacan, J. (1977). Écrits: A Selection. Translated by Alan Sheridan. Tavsistock/Routledge.
Lorand, S. (1964). Anorexia Nervosa: Report of a Case. Evolution of Psychosomatic Concepts: Anorexia Nervosa, a Paradigm. (M. Kaufman & Marcel Heiman, Ed.). International UP.
Marx, P. (1965-1966). Interview with Anne Sexton. Hudson Review, 18, 560-570.
Meyer, B. & Weinroth, L. (1957). Observations on Psychological Aspects of Anorexia Nervosa. Psychosomatic Medicine, 19(5), 389–398.
Middlebrook, D. W. (1991). Anne Sexton: A biography. Houghton Mifflin.
Ostriker, A. (1998). That Story: The Changes of Anne Sexton. Writing Like a Woman, U of Michigan P.
Ossip, K. (2016). Are We fake? Images of Anne Sexton, Twentieth-Century Woman/Poet. This Business of Words: Reassessing Anne Sexton. (A. Golden, Ed.) UP of Florida.
Raineri, K. (2014). Treatment for Eating Disorders with Emphasis on Risk Factors and Special Consideration for Minorities. Master’s thesis, Pacific University.
Rigl, A. (2014). The Anorexic Aesthetic: An Analysis of Poetics of Gluck, Dickinson, and Bidart. Master’s thesis, Vanderbilt University.
Ressler, A. (1998). A Body to Die For: eating disorders and body-image distortion of women. International Journal of Fertility and Women’s Medicine, 43(3), 133–138.
Segal, H. (2018). Introduction to the Work of Melanie Klein. Routledge.
Sexton, A. (2020, May). Anne Sexton Papers. The Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin.
Sexton, A. (1975). The Awful Rowing Toward God. Houghton Mifflin.
Sexton, A. (1972). The Book of Folly. Houghton Mifflin.
Sexton, A. (1991). The Complete Poems. (L. Gray Sexton & L. Conant Jr, Ed.). First Mariner Books.
Sexton, A. (1959). The Double Image. Hudson Review, 12(1), 73–79.
Sexton, A. (1977). A Self-Portrait in Letters. (L. Gray Sexton & L. Ames), Houghton Mifflin.
Sexton, A. (1960). To Bedlam and Part Way Back. Houghton Mifflin.
Sexton, A. (1972). The Book of Folly. Houghton Mifflin.
Sexton, A. (1973). The Freak Show. American Poetry Review, 2(3), 38 – 40.
Sexton, A. (1971). Transformations. Houghton Mifflin.
Sexton, L. (1994) Searching for Mercy Street. Counterpoint.
Van Hyning, V. (2016). Reading, Voice, and Performance: ‘The Freak Show’ Revisited. This Business of Words: Reassessing Anne Sexton. (A. Golden Ed.) UP Florida.
Williamson, A. (1983). Confession and Tragedy. Poetry, 5(142), 170 –178.
Published
2020-07-01
How to Cite
Jessica Mehta. (2020). Picture Perfect: Anne Sexton’s “The Double Image” Reflects the Poet as Daughter, Mother, and Anorectic. Journal of Critical Studies in Language and Literature, 1(2), 26-36. https://doi.org/10.46809/jcsll.v1i2.55
Section
Articles