Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Professor Warren Liu

Reader 2

Professor Michelle Decker

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2020 Kaila S Finn


This thesis’s interpretation of “The Double Image” and “Those Times” explores the reproduction of gender norms between mother and daughter. These poems imagine motherhood as a rather grim replication of body image issues, lack of self-identity, and the internalization of sacrifice. When considering both the context of the 1950s as well as our current moment, the grotesquity of Sexton’s description of motherhood is particularly shocking. The renaissance of women in domestic roles troubled Sexton’s poetry and Sexton herself. Therefore, in considering these poems’ impacts on American culture, it is critical to imagine how shocking such a grotesque portrayal of “domestic bliss” and the “pure housewife” would have been at the time. The deification of mothers as naturally equipped to emotionally protect both children and husbands is utterly deconstructed by Sexton’s bleak depiction of mothers. Sexton’s motherhood poetry deconstructs that narrative by demonstrating how psychologically toxic the mother-daughter relationship can be, especially through it’s reproduction of femininity standards. But perhaps more importantly, Sexton’s work illustrates that this glorification of mothers blocks our society from reckoning with the psychological power that mothers hold and perpetuates unrealistic standards for mothers themselves. Ultimately, Sexton’s intensely grotesque portrayal of this reproduction of gender norms deconstructs our glorified idea of mothers, demonstrating how these ideals harm both daughters and mothers alike.