Battles for power, a comparative paper between Anne Carson's novel in verse "Autobiography of Red" and Marie Howe's collection of poetry "What the Living Do"

Essay by limabeanCollege, Undergraduate May 2004

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Battles for Power

"As in childhood we live sweeping close to the sky, and now what dawn is this"

-Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red

Central to the themes of many of the novels we have read thus far is the influence of sexual abuse on the development of characters and their actions. After withstanding abuse, generally at a young age, they are often reluctant to trust others, and further become overtly aware of their vulnerability in their interaction with others. In many cases the victims of sexual abuse then associate sex with violence and anger, and avoid it all together, as they cannot fathom a sexual experience that is not laced with an undertone of dominance or hatred. Characters such as Geryon, in Autobiography of Red, and Marie Howe, in her autobiographical collection of poetry, What The Living Do, who were abused by family members as children, were especially emotionally traumatized, as they were harassed by people who were close to them, who they would otherwise inherently trust.

It seems as though both Marie and Geryon internalize their childhood experiences, fighting a battle against themselves in order to gain power after they realize how easily it can be taken from them, and how quickly they can be deemed otherwise helpless.

Marie Howe illustrates the harassment she faced as a child in a series of poems that expose the view points of her family on the issue as well, most of who avoided the fact that there was a problem within their household in the first place. The obvious abuse remained an unspoken truth, if addressed, it would create more trouble within the family, and affect many more people than just the victim, Marie herself, alienated by the fact that she was the oppressed, sexually abused by her father...