Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"You are who your friends are"

I’m not sure who said it first, but the quote “You are who your friends are” came to mind when reading about Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. While I have heard this quote before and thought it to be true in some cases, I never believed it to be as true as in the case of Plath and Sexton. Both women were plagued by depression and it seems like they bonded over it too. In “Sylvia’s Death”, Sexton refers to suicide as “our boy” telling us that they had clearly discussed the topic several times. I think it is safe to say they were both obsessed with death. There are so many similarities between the two poets. Besides their suicides, they were feminists who practiced confessional poetry and both from Massachusetts. I feel like it is hard to analyze either poet’s work without thinking about their suicides and basically how morbid their minds were. I know after reading their bios that was stuck in the back of my head. I mean Plath even mentions one of her suicide attempts in “Daddy”, so it is hard not to focus on that.

Overall, I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the poems we read, but since I am from Massachusetts I felt in the loop with the references!

What did you guys find?


  1. I definitely agree that you are who your friends are. I remember reading a NY Times article a few months back about old people. It basically said that elderly people who have good, positive, friends they keep in contact with live longer and are healthier.

    I think everyone's had the experience of having a friend bring them down by being negative or depressing. I think somebody should have separated Plath and Sexton. No good could come of their pairing!

    nyt article link : IS HAPPINESS CATCHING?

  2. This reminds me of the new country song by Tracy Lawrence called "Find Out Who Your Friends Are". The song talks about how everyone seems to love and support you when everything is going great in your life but once the going gets tough then most people will run away and the ones who stick around are your true friends. I've come to be obsessed with the song and the chorus goes...
    "You find out who your friends are
    Somebody's gonna drop everything
    Run out and crank up their car
    Hit the gas, get there fast
    Never stop to think 'what's in it for me?' or 'it's way too far'
    They just show on up with their big old heart
    You find out who your friends are"

    If you like country then I highly suggest you check it out!

  3. Okay, Devil's Advocate time! Who isn't "obsessed with death"? Aren't we all? To be alive is to acknowledge that death will happen eventually. Couldn't the Sexton and Plath poems that directly discuss death and suicide be more about the human condition and less about the two of them? As such, are they "necessary," to use Lorde's term?

  4. Something that struck me about Sexton's "Slylvia's Death," in particular, was that while it's obviously about death it's not exactly "morbid." At least from the poems we read, I didn't get a vibe from Sexton that life was so unbearable for her that she wanted to kill herself. It felt more like she was kind of bored and looked at death as this next, more interesting, stage of life. She seemed jealous of Plath, not really for being dead, but for being able to experience something that she didn't.

  5. I absolutely adore Sylvia Plath and all of her work and with her wide array of work in mind, she was not simply "obsessed with death." Her actualy suicide was unintended, simply a cry for help gone horribly wrong. I feel like reading "The Bell Jar" is the only good way to see inside the mind of Sylvia Plath. She was troubled, with thoughts of death, her father's absence, her gender, but we have to realize that today's medicines and anti-depressants could have helped and even saved her life.

    She was a person, who like others, wrote because she had pent up feelings, anxieties, etc. that were exacerbated by the atmosphere of the late 50's and early 60's. She was depressed and looked for help when she was alive. Dealing with depression in this era was so difficult: doctors practiced electro-shock therapy (which Plath was forced to go through) in crude manners, oftentimes making the depression worse. Either this, or they just stuck you in an asylum.

    Can you blame her for writing about what she did? She had such horrible experiences with her depression, this writing was a wonderful outlet. Sure its grotesque, but its nothing compared to some of the Chuck Palahniuk novels popular today. And imagine "Blackberrying" and her other poems. Here she is celebrating the living world, not "obsessing about death."

    You cannot make a horrible judgement of one writer based on several of her poems.

  6. I agree with Susan, I did not feel that Sexton was overwhelmingly depressing and morbid in her poem. I'm not particularly interested in these poems either... they actually annoyed me a little bit if thats not horrible to say. But, they did have me thinking about the human state and how people almost constantly analyze their state of being, am i happy/sad/angry, do I need to get married/get a job whatever to be happy? And so on, while most animals seem to live just to survive and carry out the species... without being so focused on their own perspective. hm random, thinking about it while watching planet earth!!

  7. These two authors remind me of suicide pacts that I hear about in the news every now and then. I believe that 'you are who your friends are' can often be true, especially when you're in desperate situation. It seems that Plath and Sexton were each other's support systems to get through depression. Support systems become your friends. Thats just how I see their friendship and mutual battles with depression.