Date Approved


Date Posted


Degree Type

Campus Only Senior Honors Thesis

Department or School

English Language and Literature

First Advisor

Amanda Allen

Second Advisor

Ramona Caponegro


Myths, fairy tales, and archetypes have been used to teach, warn, and entertain both children and adults. Due to the accessibility of such stories, many strides have been made within the last century to propose political and psychological opinions within the framework of these formats. One such opinion is that which brings into question the use and function of gender and gender binaries within the context of the characters within the stories. Throughout her work, poet and writer, Sylvia Plath, frequently referred to common fairy tales, myths, and archetypes. Though Plath is often considered to be a confessional poet, she differentiates her writing style through her methods of revising the characters and speakers within the mythical tales. She does this by projecting alternative feminine characteristics, as defined by constructions of gender expression. While her suicide and depression typically suggest that the tools Plath employed were meant to expose her internal struggle, there is evidence that Plath was purposefully using these twisted tales and confessions to force the reader to consider a feminist perspective and embody the debate of gender roles for him or herself.

In a modem comparison, writer and director, Joss Whedon, has been recognized for his feminist writing, which he incorporates in the television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Throughout the series, Whedon employs Plath's same methods to create a character who questions the means of expressing gender roles. He does so by combining and combating Buffy Summer's roles as a girlfriend, a "mother", a sister, a daughter, a stereotypical teenage girl, and a hero within a modem context.

Through their implementation of fairy tales to question the construction of gender roles, the two writers create their own construction of gender expression. The result has since obtained recognition and cross-generational longevity because of its use of fairy tales to propagate ideas.