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“Briar Rose” by Anne Sexton – Analysis Essay

Anne Sexton completely altered the fairy tale, Briar Rose. The original tale was a straight forward story that can lead the reader to come up with a moral. It was one that also had a happy ending.

When Anne Sexton tells us her version of Briar Rose, she immediately begins by giving the reader a view of what Briar Rose’s sleep is like. She tells us of how Briar Rose feels, and gives the reader some what of an introduction to the ways of Briar Rose. After this psychedelic section of a girl, Briar Rose, who keeps “slipping off into a hypnotist’s trance” (lines 4-6), Sexton begins telling the tale. Once Sexton gets into the tale, most of the lines consist of a summary of what truly happens in the fairy tale. Sexton, however, does add several parts that help the reader understand the story from Sexton’s perspective; ” The King looked like Munch’s ‘Scream'” (line 43).

Line 100 was the most important line in the poem. After finishing her synopsis of the fairy tale with, “She married the prince and all went well” (lines 98-99), she immediately adds “except for the fear – the fear of sleep.” (lines 100-101). After this line, Sexton begins a new stanza on Briar Rose’s future, differing a lot from the fairy tale’s “… and they lived happily ever after.” Sexton begins telling the reader how Briar Rose will become an insomniac. She also begins applying some of today’s modern day medicine to the story, by saying that Briar Rose would be unable to sleep “…without the court chemist mixing her some knock-out drops” (lines 106-107). From that point on, Anne Sexton slowly applies her life to the poem, and adds the parts of her like that she has trouble with into her poem. It seems as though she does this almost unconsciously and unintentionally.

By line 120, Anne Sexton has completely replaced herself with Briar Rose. She continuously uses I in Briar Rose’s place. Now she has completely applied modern day technology, saying things like “I’m all shot up with Novocain”. She clearly places herself in the novel and tells the reader about her life. She replaces the happy parts of the poem with parts that may have been different in her life. “Daddy? That’s another kind of prison. Its not the
prince at all, but my father, drunkenly bent over my bed…” (lines 150-154).

This shows that her father may have abused her and may have limited her lifestyle as he was “circling the abyss like a shark, my father thick upon me” (lines 155-156). He also may have been an alcoholic. She also shows how once Briar Rose had truly died once she was fifteen, even though she was truly just put into a 100 year sleep. Her life of fear and insomnia was now nearly a reincarnation, or a “life after death” (line 161), of her terrible existence.

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