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In “Briar Rose,” it is clear that Anne Sexton uses a classic fairy tale to tell of her own childhood experiences with sexual abuse. Instead of simply retelling the story, she puts a new twist on it and transforms it into an elaborate metaphor. Not so much a cry for help as a plea for awareness, Sexton uses carefully crafted words to depict her own struggle to expose the perpetrator. She also uses her adaptation of the story to address the issue of cultures ignoring sexual violence altogether.
In Sexton’s “Briar Rose,” the story begins by the King hosting a christening for his new daughter, Briar Rose. He invites all but the thirteenth fairy to the event, and in her bitterness, she prophesizes that Briar Rose will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die at the young age of fifteen. The twelfth fairy alters the spell so that Briar Rose will only sleep for a hundred years rather than perish. The king rids the kingdom of every spinning wheel and forces every male in the kingdom to “scour his tongue with Bab-o.” On her fifteenth birthday, however, she did prick her finger on a sp…