Michealangelo, perhaps the most gifted sculptor and painter of all times, once said that "geniuses stand on the shoulders of other geniuses." As Michelangelo built upon the brilliance of his predecessors, Anne Sexton does the same in her collection of poems entitled Transformations. She renovated fairy tales as told by the Brothers Grimm by adding her own life experiences and view of contemporary culture, hammering away until she built an entirely new art form. Anne Sexton has had a notable effect upon the literary genre of fairy tales through this shocking transformation of classic tales.
Anne Sexton was born in Newton, Massachusetts on November 9, 1928 to Ralph and Mary Gray Staples Harvey. Her life as a child and adolescent, though privileged in monetary terms, was also one of deprivation and abuse. Anne’s mother and father both struggled with alcoholism, a struggle which, according to her biographers, influenced Sexton’s substance abuses later in life. In addition to the alcoholism, Sexton also experienced other abuses by her parents; Sexton’s biographers describe her mother as "neglectful" and her father as verbally abusive (Middlebrook 57). Anne also alleged, though the claim cannot be proved or disproved, that her father fondled her sexually.
Anne’s childhood disturbed in many ways, continued to influence her until her death in 1974. This influence is seen in Sexton’s marriage to Alfred Muller Sexton II (Kayo) and in the tragic circumstances surrounding her death. Anne Sexton attended Garland Junior College for only one year and married Alfred Sexton in 1948 at the age of 19. Their marriage was unstable and Anne Sexton was continually engaged in extra-marital affairs. The effects of alcoholism brought on by both spouses also crippled the marriage.
A few years into union, Anne had two children, Linda and Joy, and was hospitalized for postpartum depression after the birth of both children (McCartan 2). Her depression was severe, and Sexton was suicidal for most of her adult life. She made an attempt at her life in 1955 that landed her in the hands of Martin T. Orne, M.D., Ph.D., her psychologist who encouraged her to write poetry as part of the psychological healing process (Middlebrook xiii-xviii). With this encouragement Anne published her first book of poetry, To Bedlam and Part Way Back, in 1960 (McCartan 2). The book was well received and marked the beginning of her rise to the top. 1967 another major year in Sexton’s career; she won the Pulitzer Prize for Live or Die. Transformations, her book of poetic fairy tales, was published later in 1971. On October 4, 1974, shortly after the release of Transformations, Anne could no longer stand the pressures of her existence and committed suicide.
This biographical information is essential to understanding Anne Sexton’s...