Wuthering Heights by Silvia Plath Essay
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«Wuthering Heights» is a poem written by an American poet Sylvia Plath and is based on a novel of the same name by Emily Bronte. In order to convey her internal feelings of despair and disappointment, Sylvia uses a certain tone, structure, and a number of stylistic devises. Below is a descriptive analysis of how she manages to do so, and an interpretation of a poem’s meaning stanza by stanza.
From the beginning of the first line, Sylvia Plath sets a depressive and negative tone to her poem.
The horizons ring me like faggots”- is the first line of the poem, and yet it already suggests how desolate the place from where she looks at them is. With the use of personification “ring me” she creates an aural image of ringing, which enhances the solitude she experiences, as ears tend to ring in a silent place. Horizons are “titled and disparate”, where the word “disparate” echoes the word “despair”, in its turn implying that she is in a desperate emotional state.
Through using a metaphor “touched by a match”, referring to the horizons, and saying that “they might warm me”, she not only acknowledges the reader of the coldness she feels, but also expresses hope that the horizons might warm her. However, the hope soon dissolves, along with the horizons in the last two lines of the poem- “But they only dissolve and dissolve, Like a series of promises, as I step forward”. Through repetition she enhances the bitterness she feels from the disappointment, and compares the warmth that was neglected to her, to the promises that were made to her but were never kept.
The enjambment of the sentence structure between the last two lines is another proof to the possible connection between the horizons and promises. Such connection might mean that it is her allusion to her husband- a poet Ted Hughes that has not been loyal to her despite the vows given during their marriage. With the use of the word “me”, the readers become aware of the fact that Sylvia writes it in the first person inclusive and describes her own experience, which in its turns raises their feeling of compassion towards her and once again suggests that this poem might have been dedicated to her ex husband.
With the following second stanza the tone of the poem becomes more depressing. By saying that “there is no life higher than the grasstops or the hearts of sheep”, she creates boundaries to the vastness of life, limiting and comparing its essence to that of a plant’s and an animal’s, leaving the humans out of the poem. The depressive mood degrades the tone and atmosphere to an extent of filling it with death and fatality. If Sylvia pays “the roots of the heather too close attention”, they will “whiten her bones among them”.
The combination of the words “bones” and “white” in one sentence might suggest that the roots will bring her death; since the skin of a corpse turns white due to the lack of blood, and bones are the leftovers of a dead hence both are associated with mortality. As opposed to the first stanza, the second stanza takes her to a completely different place. Grasstops, sheep, the roots of heather- all surround her, whereas in the first stanza she is completely alone in a huge desolate space.
The change in her surroundings suggests her movement across the moorland, but at the same time it points out the maintenance of her demoralized emotional state and the lack of a positive change about it. The tone of despair and loneliness is carried on to the proceeding stanzas, and is more evident in the last two. By saying that “Water limpid as the solitudes that flee through my fingers”, Sylvia shows the reader her abstract idea of being alone with the help of a consonance- “as- solitude” and “flee- fingers”.
The “s” sound helps the reader imagine the literal hardness of solitude, as well as its transparency by being able to flow through her fingers with the “f” sounds. This in its turn indicates solitude’s double nature and Sylvia’s inability to neither control nor change it. In lines four and five Sylvia for the first time creates an image of nothing being straight- “hollow doorsteps go from grass to grass; lintel and sill have unhinged themselves”. By using the repetition “grass to grass”, she mimics the slowness of doorsteps’ steps, and personifies the doorsteps by giving them the ability to go.
She also uses personification to describe how lintel and sill unhinge themselves, which once again reflects upon the presence of chaos and despair in her surroundings. By mentioning doorsteps, hinges and sills, she for the first time acknowledges the existence of humans in the past, and their current absence from the world that has been taken over by nature. The removal of all people but herself from the world not only enhances the bitterness she feels towards them, but also marks her egocentric nature as she is not willing to accept any advanced living thing but herself, preferring the nature instead.
The fourth stanza ends with a repetition of the words “black stone, black stone”. As the air blows, Sylvia creates an aural image of the air moaning those words with the repetition technique, which slows down the speed of their pronouncement. At the same time, the air therefore is personified as it is given the ability to speak. This emphasizes the death and coldness present during the absence of life not only around her but also within her, as she is the only person that can hear the air say it.
In the fifth, the final stanza of the poem the tone remains depressing and yet the ending suggests the possible appearance of hope. The paragraph begins with the reinforced idea of Sylvia being the only “upright” living thing- “The sky leans on me, me, the one upright among all horizontals”. Besides personifying the sky, she is also using the repetition “me, me” to stress the importance of being upright, and at the same time the solitude it brings her when everything else is horizontal.
She then personifies the grass as it is “beating its head distractedly”, but it is also a contradiction since grass ought to be strong in order to survive in such cruel conditions. The fact that a grass beats its head may also reflect Sylvia’s unstable state of mind, which adds the feelings of compassion and grief to the atmosphere of the tone. Unlike other personifications that Sylvia Plath uses in this poem, the personification of a grass suggests her sympathy and familiarity towards it. She calls it “too delicate for a life in such company”, assuming that “darkness terrifies it”.
This involvement with the description of what grass has to go through may imply that Sylvia describes her own life whilst comparing its hardship to that of a grass’. The last two sentences are significant in a sense that Sylvia gives the reader a chance to decide whether the hope appears or does not. With the use of sibilance “black as”, she contrasts the blackness with the whiteness from the “light” that the house exerts. This is the first time she mentions the possible existence of human beings around her, and this raises hope as the “lights gleam like a small change” in the dreadful and dark surroundings.
However, the presence of light may also mean that the rest of the world has fallen into absolute darkness, and the small light in the distance will soon die under its pressure. According to facts Sylvia Plath has committed suicide on February 11th, 1963 and this is when both interpretations undergo amalgamation to suggest that she may have had space for hope in her heart, but in reality her life was oppressing her to an extent of leading her life to a tragic end.
According to the above analysis, the poem is written in the first person narrative where Sylvia gives a vivid image of her life hrough using literary devices to set the tone of despair and loneliness. Personally, I think Sylvia Plath communicates her internal troubles intensely and passionately. Through the description of landscape, the action of nature within it, the roles of colour and light- she is able to paint a picture of her life clearly enough for the reader to understand her message, and yet she disguises some aspects of the poem through imagery and metaphors to let the reader interpret and relate to the poem in a personal way.
By introducing light into the poem, Sylvia twists the ending and confuses the reader, forcing him to reconsider his assumptions regarding the poem’s tone, meaning and the resolution. In case of Sylvia Plath’s life, the hope is lost in the end of it and annihilation takes over. However, because the poem lacks any names and includes the reader into it with the word “me”, the reader is left with his own imagination to decide whether the tone and the resolution take on a positive note, or fall into a greater despair.