Initiation: From Conformity to Individualism

By | August 5, 2015

By Katie Z., 7th Grade

July 2015

High school is when teens are trying to find themselves. People want to fit in, be popular, win prom queen/king, etc.  Sylvia Plath’s short story “Initiation” is about a girl who wants to be like everybody else. While in the beginning of the story Millicent needs others’ approval, as she begins to interact with unique individuals, Millicent gains confidence in herself.

In the beginning of the story, Millicent always desires to be one of the sorority girls who is popular. She imagines “she had been sitting for years in a pavilion outside a dance floor, looking in through the windows at the golden interior, with lights clear and the air like honey, wistfully watching the couples waltzing to the never-ending music, laughing in pairs and groups together, no one alone” (2). Millicent isn’t one who has tons of friends, a boyfriend, or is popular. She longs to be in the sorority of Lansing High, to be “one of the cool kids”. She envisions the club to be the path to perfection. To get invited to join the group is a dream come true for her. Phrases such as, “…with lights clear and the air like honey” and “…couples waltzing to the never ending music” create a fairytale-like image.

As a result of talking to a unique man on a bus, Millicent begins realize that she can connect with other without the help of the sorority. When Millicent asks the man about his breakfast, he replies with a rather odd answer, talking about heather birds, what they are like, their eyebrows, and the fact that they were mythological. He tells her that he sometimes wishes he was mythical and being mythological does amazing things to one’s ego. After listening to him joke, Millicent realizes that people are boxes that are just waiting to be opened by conversation and that one doesn’t have to be in a club to feel comradeship.

After the encounter and discussion with the small man, Millicent starts thinking more and more about the individualism of heather birds and the sameness of sparrows. Members of the sorority are all alike, just as sparrows in a flock. On the other hand, the heather birds, proud in their freedom, loneliness, and individualism show Millicent that “it was just that she had learned there were other ways of getting into the great hall, blazing with lights, of people and of life” (6). The fairytale she had been imagining is tangible without the sorority membership.

From the beginning to the end of the story, Millicent changes her view of the sorority and herself. At the start, all she ever wanted was to be in the sorority, so she could feel connected to others. But after the conversation about heather birds, Millicent finally grasps the fact that finding that perfect ending can be done without the sorority. In our society, many people struggle with wanting to fit in and pleasing everyone. To this day, it is a common topic among authors, producers, etc. “Initiation” demonstrates that fitting in or being like everyone else isn’t always the best route to one’s happily-ever-after. The short story also proves that pleasing everyone doesn’t always work, and perhaps it isn’t even possible. So the next time you try and do/buy something in order to please someone or fit in, remember that being unique or different is your own special gift.

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