Clifton and Plath on the Feminine Identity - Essay Example

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Clifton and Plath on the Feminine Identity

While they both appear to be in agreement on the nature of the feminine identity, their American perspectives differ vastly. Clifton, as an African-American, alludes to African themes, and brings into her poem questions about the duality within the African-American experience, and ultimately celebrates herself as a symbol of endurance. Plath's is decidedly different in its paradoxical nature. While her poem focuses on the vivacious and enigmatic legacy that she will leave behind, it is wholly centralized around her death, which creates a somewhat doomed undertone. But while both poets differ in their cultural perspectives, they both produce similar portrayals of the feminine identity as being one of strength, passion, and survival.
Clifton brings many symbols to her poem that speak to the African-American, as well as the female experience. She describes herself as a "jungle girl/quick as a snake/a tree girl," (4-6). In aligning herself with such images as a jungle, a snake, and a tree-dweller, she is making a direct allusion to the African identity. Throughout American history, the image of the "African savage" was utilized as a means of persecution, keeping black-Americans under an oppressive rule by larger society. Africans were believed to be tribal jungle-dwellers, savage and uncivilized, and particularly dangerous for their lack of Christianization. ...Show more

Summary

American poets have long grappled with the topic of identity-both personal and cultural. What is the American identity, and what is the individual within the American identity Such questions gave rise to the confessional poets, to whom Sylvia Plath and Lucille Clifton belong…
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