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Stone, C. (1975). Three Mother—Daughter Poems: The Struggle for Separation. Contemp. Psychoanal., 11:227-239.

(1975). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 11:227-239

Three Mother—Daughter Poems: The Struggle for Separation

Carole Stone

THE USEFULNESS OF POETIC MATERIAL in reflecting psychological insight has been recently demonstrated in a study of the relationship of the girl to the father (Lord and Stone, 1973). While pointing out, "What these poems underscore clearly … is a continuing need and longing for a fathering experience, " the authors also recognized that "The girl's relationship with the mother would be of particular interest." That essential relationship is the subject of this paper, in which I will employ the same technique, analyzing three poems written by three contemporary women poets, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, and Erica Jong. Since Sexton and Plath also authored poems analyzed in "Fathers and Daughters, " it may now be possible to understand more clearly the role of the mother as well as the role of the father in the girl's development.

Erica Jong's poem, "Mother, " Anne Sexton's "Dreaming the Breasts, " and Sylvia Plath's "The Disquieting Muses" illustrate different ways of dealing with the struggle for separation from their mothers. The poems depict various stages of the effort to become free of the mother, to get away from being too close to her, and to become a separate unique woman. All of the poems reveal feelings of powerlessness and anger toward the mother for being too dominant; they also express love. The mother is a formidable opponent for the young girl, who cannot express to her mother her deepest feelings about her. Years later, in the poems, she can.

In analyzing these poets' mother poems, I will point out what the poems have in common and what the problem is in the mother–daughter relationship for each poet, and the poet's solution to that problem. It is of great importance to understand how the daughter uses her mother, positively or negatively, as role-model.

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