Chantal Chau Analysis of a Key Passage, Initiation by Sylvia Plath In Initiation by Sylvia Plath, the author suggests that conformity and having friends is a wonderful idea, yet the idea of having an individual identity and being an individual is stronger. In the excerpt, Millicent is slowly realizing that conforming and being a part of a sorority is not as exciting as it sounds, and being an individual offers more opportunities to become a unique person. Millicent is an average girl who no one really notices, when one day, a sorority group decides to allow her to join, but she must past their initiation test first.
At first, Millicent is ecstatic, and proud that she can finally be a part of society, but slowing, and in the beginning of the excerpt, Millicent finds that being an individual can offer more. As she is talking to Liane Morris, another sorority contestant, she finds that in the sorority “they have a meeting once a week… each girl takes turns entertaining at her house… ”, and how this is not all as exciting as she imagined. Millicent’s desire to know what the group does reflects the idea of hesitation, and how Millicent is now wondering if she really wants to be a part of this group.
As she considers both sides of her decision to join, she realizes that joining the sorority would simply allow her to approach Herb, a male student she likes. Her thought “would he ask her out (if he ever did) just for herself, no strings attached? ” bring the desire to be unique and original up and pushes past the need to be popular. Millicent is constantly considering the idea of not joining the sorority, and visualizing them as “pale grey-brown birds in a flock, one like the other, all exactly alike”. This analogy of conformity is very strong, because in a sorority, every girl is alike, with shallow personalities and beautiful exteriors.
The sparrows are described to be “chirping”, which brings the idea of being plain and restrained to the mind, because when birds are chirping, they are not expressing themselves; rather they are simply copying the other birds, with no desire to stand out from the rest. In Millicent’s mind, freedom and originality is described as “swooping carefree heather birds, they would go singing and cooing out across the great spaces of air, dipping and darting, strong and proud in their freedom and their sometime loneliness”. Heather irds are a mythological animal, meaning freedom has no defined description that originality does not exist in a solid form. They are described to be “swooping, carefree”, meaning there is no worry of being judged, and “dipping and darting, strong in their freedom” describes the happiness of a worry free life, where style and opinions are not judged or withheld, unlike the “chirping”, trapped, restrained sparrows which symbolize the sorority. Heather birds were “singing and cooing out across the great spaces of air”, showing that they could express their ideas and opinions without worry, though loneliness was a consequence.
In the excerpt, it was stated that the heather birds were “strong and proud in their freedom and their sometime loneliness”, meaning that there will always be unique people in the world Millicent can relate to, though at times the individuality will stand out, and she will be alone. Through this mental debate, Millicent learns discovers that she could enter her imaginary great hall through “her coronation as a princess labelling her conclusively as one of the select flock”, or use “other ways of getting into the great hall, blazing with lights, of people and life”.
When read closely, we can see that the mentions the sorority as a flock, demoting them to nothing but a group of beautiful shells with hollow insides, one alike the other. It is then that her decision to use “other ways” to enter this great hall, without being simply a hollow princes. Just before she is actually accepted into the sorority, the door to the basement opens, and the description of the “ray of light” that “sliced across the soft gloom of the basement room” shows the difference between identical, shallow girls and the deeper, unique members of the world.
The ray of light that sliced across the room symbolized the epiphany she had, how she now knows that she cannot be a part of the “soft gloom of the basement room”, where everyone is the same, there is nothing special about anyone. As Millicent is leaving the basement, she hears the “song of the heather birds as they went wheeling and gliding against wide blue horizons through vast spaces of air, their wings flashing quick and purple in the bright sun” and in her final decision, her heart and soul joins the heather birds she has always been.
From the beginning, Millicent has always seem to have known that she could never be a shallow pretty girl; throughout the story, there are little clues of her reluctance to be part of the sorority, such as when she was talking to Lou, a member of the sorority, and discovering the many useless things the sorority does. But when she realizes she has more than just one option, Millicent suddenly becomes hopeful, and more positives changes arrive, such as “how she could still be friends with everybody”, how she can still be herself, while still being in a group. The group of original people.