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Analysis and comments on Ghosts by Anne Sexton

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Larissa from Kyrgyz Republic (Kyrgyzstan)
Comment 11 of 90, added on May 18th, 2008 at 12:00 PM.

"Ghosts" is one of Sexton's second collection of poems "All my pretty
ones". Sexton begins to write with less formal, but more initiative
approach. The themes of this poem, the collection's themes, are suffering,
break down, and loneliness. "Ghosts" is autobiographical poem.

General idea
Sexton wrote this poem as a result of her divorce, sending her daughters to
boarding school and her parent's death. Consequently she lives alone in
empty house. She is very depressed and desperate because of her bad state.

Analysis
*The first stanza
Some ghosts are women,
neither abstract nor pale,
their breasts as limp as killed fish.
Not witches, but ghosts
who come, moving their useless arms
like forsaken servants.

Sexton begins to describe herself in this desolate house. Therefore she
sees ghosts in every place in the house. At the first time, she sees these
ghosts as women. May be "Some ghosts are women" these ghosts are the ghosts
of her dead mother and dead aunt. By saying "their breasts as limp as
killed fish" Sexton proves that these ghosts are dead people. She does not
compare them to witches "Not witches, but ghosts", because witches have
special power, and these ghosts are very weak "their useless arms like
forsaken servants". They are also ostracized.

*The second stanza
Not all ghosts are women,
I have seen others;
fat, white-bellied men,
wearing their genitals like old rags.
Not devils, but ghosts.
This one thumps barefoot, lurching
above my bed.

In this empty house, Sexton also sees ghosts of men who may be her dead
father and ex-husband. She describes them with ugly features "fat, white
bellied men". Sexton may describe them with all these hideous features,
because her husband divorced her and her father left her alone in this
life. The evidence of their death is that their stomachs were bellied, and
their genitals were worn. The reader can feel that Sexton dislikes these
ghosts, men. They also dislike her, because they annoy her as she says
"This one thumps barefoot, lurching above my bed".

*The third stanza
But that isn't all.
Some ghosts are children.
Not angels, but ghosts;
curling like pink tea cups
on any pillow, or kicking,
showing their innocent bottoms, wailing
for Lucifer.

Ghosts are not only women and men, but also children "But that isn't all"
"Some ghosts are children". These children may be her daughters who also
left her. Sexton denies that these children can be angles "Not angles, but
ghosts", because angles are kind and nice. These ghosts, children, are
crying for the devil "wailing for Lucifer".


Poetic technique
Language
Sexton uses a special language to make the reader feel her miserably life
and her loneliness. She mentions the word "ghosts" seven times to prove her
loneliness with all aspects of ghosts "women, men, and children". She also
uses bad and ugly characteristics to describe them, which show that Sexton
does not like them
Their breasts as limp as killed fish
Who come, moving their useless arms
Like forsaken servants
Fat, white-bellied men
Wearing their genitals like old rags
(3, 5, 6,
9, 10)
Sexton's gloomy life imposes on her, knowing witches, devils and Lucifer.
She also knows that these ghosts are neither devils nor witches, because
they have nothing to do except annoying her.

Imagery
Images are not so many in this poem, because Sexton only describes her bad
state. However, she uses some figures of speech to give the reader the
whole image of her state, as she employs some similes
• Simile
their breasts as limp as killed fish.
who come, moving their useless arms
like forsaken servants.
wearing their genitals like old rags.
curling like pink tea cups

(3, 5, 6, 10, 17)
In these similes, Sexton compares ghosts to ugly and disgusting features.
She also uses her favorite figure of speech, anaphora:
• Anaphora in "Some ghosts are" and "not….., but ghosts" in every stanza.


Musicality
Sexton uses neither a lot of musical words nor rhyming in this poem, but
there are some sound patterns and assonance.
• Assonance "pillows, kicking".

(18)
• Sound pattern
neither abstract nor pale,
Not witches, but ghosts
Not angels, but ghosts;
Not devils, but ghosts.

(2, 4, 11, 16)
Although these musical words are in few positions, they give the reader
good musicality.

Tone
The major theme of "Ghosts" is loneliness which prevails on Sexton's life.
Consequently she uses sad tone, because of the atmosphere which the one can
feel during reading or hearing this poem.


Form
"Ghosts" is a free verse poem that divides its eighteen lines into three
sestets (six -line stanza).


Conclusion
Poets are very sensitive people. Sexton is evidence of that, because she
well describes her bad state in this empty house. She can not forget her
old life and her family. Therefore her mind creates these ghosts to live
with them, and to feel that she lives among her family. However, the ghosts
are very annoyed that she suffers from their existence. She also introduces
the ghosts, her family, in bad appearance, because she may hate them in her
deep mind.


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Information about Ghosts

Poet: Anne Sexton
Poem: Ghosts
Added: Feb 20 2003
Viewed: 841 times


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