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Analysis of Sylvia Plath Poems Essay

Stringency: A rigorous imposition of standards; A tightness or constriction; A scarcity of money or credit. Strictness: conscientious attention to rules and details

The narrator makes reference to ‘a stake in your fat black heart’ and vampire imagery is clearly used here as vampire can only be killed with a stake through the heart. The stress falling on each word is like each pound and thrust of the stake. In addition, monosyllabic words create force and energy. The sentence is plosive and it is almost as if the heart is going to burst.

We can understand the narrator’s possible dislike of domestic chores from her depiction of how ‘a sudden wind funnels at me/Slapping its phantom laundry in my face.’ The personification of the wind makes it come alive and the word ‘slapping’ is particularly explosive. It suggests that the wind is being harsh towards her. The word phantom shows death imagery. The ‘sudden wind could refer to the death of her father or perhaps the sudden discovery of her husband’s affair. This abruptness is supported by the following line because the phrase “a slap in the face” can be used to imply the element of surprise.

The lake in Mirror ‘has drowned a young girl and replaced her with a middle-aged woman. Throughout the poem the mirror/lake appears as quite a sadistic character who takes delight in the girl’s sadness. This text informs us that her youth is passing and age is gaining on her; the word ‘young’ puts particular emphasis on this fact. The drowning could suggest that the girl has drowned herself in her vanity. We can liken the girl to Narcissus, who was so obsessed with his reflection that he couldn’t tear himself away and eventually died.

The mushrooms declare that there are ‘So many of us! / So many of us!’ We read this line as if it has been yelled. This is assisted by the previous line – ‘little or nothing’ where nothingness suggests that the line itself is almost “quiet”. The mushrooms in this poem are linked to women in the time of Plath and so it is like they are yelling to be noticed. This poem is written in a time period when women’s right were very much suppressed.

The poem Ariel takes a turn in the stanza –

White
Godiva, I unpeel –
Dead hands, dead stringencies.

The word ‘white’ suggest starting fresh. ‘Unpeeling’ implies that the narrator is unpeeling her “layers”, and trying to find herself. Lady Godiva is famous for riding naked through the streets of Coventry which is quite a rebellious thing to do. The narrator is rebelling from the expectancies of women at that time. She does not want to follow the rules, the constrictions, the ‘stringencies’ and she makes this clear by referring to them as dead. ‘Dead hands’ could mean that her hands are ‘dead’ from doing household work and could also be a metaphor for the rules that have a hold on her.


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