“The Room of My Life” by Anne Sexton

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Summary of “The Room of My Life”

Written by one of the brilliant American writers and poets, Ann Sexton, “The Room of My Life” is a phenomenal poem. It explores the theme of change and how objects can take on new meanings and significance over time. The speaker describes the objects in her room, such as a typewriter, Books, ashtrays, a chair, and sockets on the wall. Moreover, she talks about ordinary objects such as a rug, a sofa, a fireplace, lights, a phone, and lights to show how these unnoticeable objects are constantly changing and evolving.

The poem also explores the idea of the room as a reflection of the speaker’s inner life and emotions, with the objects taking on new meanings and significance as the speaker’s life changes. The windows, for example, the starving windows and “driving the trees like nails into my heart,” suggest feelings of emptiness and longing.

The speaker also mentions that she feeds the world outside and inside her room. Unfortunately, nothing remains the same despite her efforts, and the objects take on new meanings and significance. In the end, the poem suggests that change is an inevitable part of life, and objects constantly shift and evolve, reflecting the life-changing moments of the speaker’s life.

To read the full poem, please click here.

Major Themes in “The Room of My Life”

Change, transformation, and acceptance are the major themes of the poem. In this poem, there is a sense of constant change and movement. The ashtrays, books, keys, typewriters, and other objects are all described as having a life of their own, shifting and transforming. The wood walls are a suffering brother, the books are beauty contestants, and the sofa is exhausted like a whore. The phone has flowers taking root in its crotch, and the doors open and close like sea clams.

Similarly, the window in the poem starves and drives trees like nails to the speaker’s heart. The outside world is also described as chaotic and violent, with birds exploding left and right. However, the speaker still feeds the world outside and inside the room.

Despite the sense of chaos and change, there is also a sense of control and manipulation. The objects are described as being compelled to change by the words in the speaker’s hands and the sea that bangs in their throat. This suggests that the speaker has some level of influence over the objects and their movements and that they may even be a reflection of the speaker’s own thoughts and emotions. Thus, the room of her life is a place of constant movement and change, with objects that have their own personalities and lives. The speaker seems to have some level of control over the room but is also affected by the chaos and violence of the outside world. The room reflects the speaker’s thoughts and emotions, and its objects constantly shift and transform.

Analysis of Poetic Elements Used in “The Room of My Life”

Literary devices add a layer of meaning to a seemingly simple text.  Anne Sexton uses several literary and poetic devices to convey the theme of change and the power of language and imagination.

  • Imagery: Sexton uses vivid imagery to create a sense of atmosphere and mood in the poem. For example, she describes the windows as “starving,” the lights as “poking,” and the doors as “opening and closing like sea clams.” This imagery helps to create a sense of confinement and unease, adding to the poem’s overall theme.
  • Personification: Sexton personifies the objects in the room, giving them human characteristics and emotions. For example, the ashtrays are described as “cry into,” the walls as “the suffering brother,” the keys of the typewriter as “eyeballs,” and the books as “contestants in a beauty contest.” This personification adds depth and meaning to the objects, making them more than just inanimate things.
  • Metaphor: Sexton uses metaphors throughout the poem to compare seemingly unrelated things. For example, the black chair is described as “a dog coffin made of Naugahyde,” the sockets on the wall are “like a cave of bees,” and the fireplace is “a knife waiting for someone to pick it up.” These comparisons help create a sense of unease and suggest that the objects in the room are not as they appear.
  • Repetition: Sexton repeats the phrase “However, nothing is just what it seems to be” at the poem’s end, emphasizing the theme of change and the idea that the objects in the room are not as they appear. This repetition also suggests that the speaker is aware of the transformation of the objects and is accepting of them.
  • Symbolism: Sexton uses symbols throughout the poem to add deeper meaning to the objects she describes. For example, the gold rug is described as “a conversation of heels and toes,” suggesting that the rug symbolizes communication and connection. Similarly, the windows are described as “driving the trees like nails into my heart,” suggesting that they symbolize the outside world and its impact on the speaker.

Conclusion

To conclude, “The Room of My Life” is a powerful and evocative poem that uses imagery to reveal the speaker’s emotional state. The objects in the room are not just objects, but symbols of the speaker’s emotional turmoil and her relationship with words. The imagery is striking and unsettling, leaving a lasting impression on the reader.

Suggested Readings

Analysis of “A Life” by Sylvia Plath

“A Brave and Startling Truth” by Maya Angelou

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