• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Discuss the presentation of death within Plath's poetry, commenting upon how your view compares with other critical viewpoints that you have read.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Discuss the presentation of death within Plath's poetry, commenting upon how your view compares with other critical viewpoints that you have read. Death is a major theme in the poetry of Sylvia Plath because of her experiences of it in life. Her father died when she was young and she had a miscarriage in between the births of her two children. She was a manic-depressive for most of her life and attempted suicide twice before she succeeded in 1963. Sylvia Plath posthumously became famous when her poetry collection Ariel was published in 1965. Her poetry has always been controversial and her poems with the theme of death are no exception. In my essay I will talk about the different presentations of death within Plath's poetry, commenting on her use of language, technique, structure and style to enforce her points. I will compare my viewpoint to those of Janice Markey, written in 1993, and David Holbrook, written in 1976. I have chosen these two critics because of the difference in gender and in the date the critique was written. Perhaps because of this, the two views expressed starkly contrast one another. Death is presented throughout Plath's poetry in one of three ways. Firstly, it is presented negatively representing sterility; secondly it is shown positively because it is creative and leads to rebirth. Finally, death is portrayed positively because it offers an escape from life. Firstly I will talk about the negative death poems, of which I have chosen "Edge" and "Words". The poem "Edge" was written in February 1963 and is thought to be her last ever poem. Because of this many think it of an expression of Sylvia Plath's own death wish, prefiguring her suicide. Due to the date it was written, it is hardly surprising that it is ambiguous and can be viewed as being both negative and positive about death. David Holbrook talks about the "seductive idolization of suicide and infanticide in 'Edge' ", a view supported by the calm accepting tone of the line "We have come so far, it is over." ...read more.

Middle

Which would lean more towards supporting Holbrook's interpretation of the poem. It "declares raucously that the big strip tease of death must be frequently repeated" according to Holbrook, a statement that I would agree with. His reason for forming such an opinion, however, is his belief that Plath was a schizoid and he cites Laing "attempts by the schizoid individual to experience real alive feelings may be made by subjecting oneself to intense pain or terror". Markey's interpretation seems to be based on the poem, rather than based on Plath herself as Holbrook's view very possibly is. This makes her view much easier for me to agree with because Holbrook has not taken into account Plath's use of persona within her poetry, which may very well echo some parts of Plath's life but is not necessarily entirely her. "The first time it happened I was ten." Echoes Plath's first suicide attempt, but "It's the theatrical Comeback in broad day To the same place, the same face, the same brute Amused shout: 'A miracle!' That knocks me out" Seems to me to be heavily ironic. Janice Markey says, "The systematic self-destruction of the speaker is a titillating experience for the 'peanut-crunching crowd', and it is the crowd, not the speaker or Plath, which wishes the perverse circus act to be repeated." for example, "I guess you could say I've a call" At the end of the poem the woman demonstrates her power and shows "determination to revenge herself upon those responsible for her torture" according to Markey, which I agree with. A view supported by the final lines "Out of the ash I rise with my red hair And I eat men like air" Holbrook, however, believes "The triumphant note in Lady Lazarus is false: there is no real triumph, but a shriek of desperation, bewilderment and despair - a despair so schizoid, so deep, that it is utterly without hope, and this hopelessness can only find relief in recklessness." ...read more.

Conclusion

Janice Markey said, "One of the most frequent charges levelled at Plath is that she regarded death as a means of rebirth and purification. Death on an individual and universal basis was indeed a theme which interested Plath, but there is no evidence that it was a condition she aspired to." The difference was probably instigated by the difference in gender of the two critics, and indeed the difference in date written. Holbrook wrote his critique in 1976 when society was much less tolerant of eccentricity than it was in 1993 when Markey wrote her critique. Holbrook seems to continually overlook the possibility that Plath was writing in a different persona, but Markey seems to always assume that she is. Holbrook appears to believe that the majority of Plath's poems demonstrate her "schizoid impulse to 'give oneself up to the joys of hating', she wrote poetry that deepened her own delusions"", a statement which I do not agree with at all. I cannot find anywhere in the poem "I Am Vertical" anything even remotely resembling hatred. The nearest emotion can be found in "Lady Lazarus" where there is a desire for revenge and a hatred of her torturers. "I eat men like air" Conflictingly, Markey says, "Nowhere is there anything even remotely resembling a paean to death; the subject is always treated negatively and associated with the corruption she believed inherent in a decadent society" I do not agree with this statement either. I believe that Plath, like all people, had differing emotions but mostly wrote in a character differing (albeit only slightly at times) from her own, for example in "Lady Lazarus" "And I a smiling woman. I am only thirty. And like the cat I have nine times to die." Sometimes, probably in her darkest moments, she wrote her desperation down as herself, for instance in "Poppies in July" her death wish seems real. "There are fumes I cannot touch. Where are your opiates, your nauseous capsules?" Helen Roberts March 2002 1 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Sylvia Plath section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Sylvia Plath essays

  1. Examining Tone, Choice of words and Imagery in the Poem "Tulips" by Sylvia Plath.

    With the absence of color surrounding her, the speaker reflects, "I am a nun now, I have never been so pure" (28). Recovering in the hospital room, the speaker begins to feel an unimagined state of purity from her pale, colorless surroundings.

  2. How does Plath use imagery and symbolism to discuss the themes of life and ...

    This sweet painful imagery is reminding her of the miscarriage and the other things she has committed which was kindly forgotten by her family.

  1. Frozen Eyes -Explore and analyse the use of imagery of death and violence in ...

    'Against my will I stand beside my own reflection and it's haunting how I can't seem to find myself again'. The 'fear' of seeing your own 'shadow', symbolises the 'fear' for your own death. Thus Plath becomes closer to self-destruction by creating visualisations of the life after death.

  2. In the poem

    Hughes blackens her inner world that the outside world (the sky) cannot squeak through. Note that she uses Fascist instead of Nazi (which symbolizes Plath's father in this poem.) When she found out that Hughes was being unfaithful to her, he became a "brute" to her.

  1. How does Plath's use of extended metaphors and other literary features effect the reader's ...

    "Nobody sees us, stops us, betrays us; the small grains may room." They are starting to sound much more powerful, they are just going unnoticed but they are still achieving what they want to achieve. This stanza re-enforces the idea of the mushrooms being passive " The small grains make

  2. An essay on the Comparison of two poems dealing with intense emotions

    Its as if she has not been able to free herself from his tight grasp that he had on her life even after he died. It is slowly suffocating her being trapped in his grasp, slowly draining every last bit of life from her until she sees no point to living.

  1. The poems of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes tell the story of lives that ...

    Plath's positive and negative feelings about pregnancy are expressed in the following quote, "Vague as fog and looked for like mail". This quote promotes the feelings of Plath that at the same time she wants the baby but on the other hand she doesn't because it is going to force her into more domestic life.

  2. Explore the way the theme of old age is presented in "Old ladies home" ...

    The title refers to the inhabitants of this home as ?Old Ladies?. The fact that they are referred to as ?ladies? implies that these women were once respected within upper-class society- but now they are ?old? it is almost as if they have passed their sell by date- that it

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work