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Explore the way the theme of old age is presented in "Old ladies home" by Sylvia Plath

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Introduction

Explore the ways in which the theme of old age is presented in the texts you have studied. Old age is a growing problem in today?s society- we all have to worry about how we are going to provide for our rapidly aging population. Charities such as Age UK work to try and provide the best possible life for those who have reached old age- whilst the government struggles to keep all the current provisions for the elderly available. For many years, writers have felt it important to express their personal opinions on the topic of growing old- yet even they don?t agree- some celebrating the prospect of a growing life expectancy and the privileges that come with being elderly- whilst others have an extremely pessimistic view, believing that once they officially become an ?old aged pensioner? then they become a lower being without any dignity or individuality. One of the texts written on the theme of old age is ?Old Ladies Home? by Sylvia Plath, who offers a very grim presentation of care home life- where the residents are weak, fragile and neglected. The structure of this poem highlights this very well, the first stanza describing the women?s frailty; the second their lack of activity and loss of contact with society; and the third- describing how these old women are running out of time- that death is waiting just around the corner. We are immediately shown Plath?s negative view of old age, by the fact that she points out the segregation of the women in the title of the poem. ...read more.

Middle

Beetles are very shy creatures, who retreat at the first sign of danger to find shelter- which relates to the women?s vulnerability and dependence on others but also contrasting what they do? these women do not run to find shelter, they run to escape it as they gain a greater sense of warmth and freedom outside, despite the fact that the stones on the wall only ??keep a little heat??. Within the first stanza the women?s weakness/frailty is highlighted, through Plath?s manipulation of literary devices- mainly similes and personification. Plath informs us that the women are ??Frail as antique earthenwear??, highlighting that they have been neglected- just as many antiques are by people who don?t realize their true value. Antiques should be valued for their age and rarity, just as these women deserve care and respect for the wisdom they can offer society? instead, just like when antiques are locked away due to being ?out of fashion?; these women are seen as a burden, locked away in this care home instead of being under the care of their families. At the end of this stanza, Plath informs us that old women ?creep out? and ?prop themselves up against the wall whose stones keep a little heat?. One interpretation of this is that the women are seeking warmth for their bodies to make up for the coldness they feel either literally, the care home being cold and chilling for them or symbolically, to make up for the coldness they might feel inside- due to the treatment they have ...read more.

Conclusion

The owl is a nocturnal creature who only comes out in the dark, so their call is almost the call summoning these women into the darkness; summoning them to death. Death, which is a recurrent theme throughout this stanza is personified on line five as ?that bald-head buzzard? that ?Stalls in halls where lamp wick/ shortens with each breath drawn.? A buzzard is a bird of prey- a scavenging bird, similar to the vulture. Vultures are now for circling their prey- in this case, the buzzard which represents death is simply waiting for all the strength to come out of it?s prey- the women- before it strikes and the unfortunate thing is these old women have no means of escape from this terrible and unjust death. At the end of this poem, Plath creates a very dark, melancholic feel through the use of the analogy of the lamp wick shortening with each breath drawn. The word breath is repeated here, having first been used on the line ??One breath might shiver to bits?. The repetition is here being used to emphasize how important breathing is in maintaining life- if we did not breath, our bodies would cease to function and we would die, therefore reinforcing the idea that each breath these women take might be their last. The analogy of the lamp wick shortening represents how their light of life could go out any minute- the flame representing their life whilst the wick represents their strength? and once their strength runs out, the light of life will be extinguished ...read more.

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