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Write a critical analysis of Plath's "The Applicant", bearing in mind the voice of the speaker

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Introduction

Write a critical analysis of Plath's "The Applicant", bearing in mind the voice of the speaker. The Applicant hinges upon the central idea of how human relations are a cynical filling of a physical need, and how marriage is the last resort of crippled personalities, where women are no more than a set of appendages and functions. The Speaker addresses the readers directly, with the constant referral to 'you', making the poem even more disturbing with the realization that we too are the potential applicants, where the fragmentation of alienation of the applicant are also part of our world. The interrogative, formal tone begins the poem as an interview, "First, are you our sort of person?" where the applicant is harshly torn down as parts which characterize his self, as if he is a cog in a bureaucratized market place forced to engage in the exchange because of his own inadequacies. The language of market executives runs through the poem, with the repetition of the word 'proof', like the persuasive tone of one trying to promote a product incessantly, an echo ringing in the head, it is a necessity. At the end of the poem it even becomes a sharp command, with the removal of a question mark it becomes no more than a necessity, an order, we are forced into marriage as a necessary social institution to plaster our fractured souls. ...read more.

Middle

This is also reflected in the disjointed structure of the poem and its quick, formal lines that gives the sense of a cycle, or a robotic process of interrogative questioning followed by the typical situation. The nakedness of both the applicant and the woman, 'stark naked' and 'naked' refer to the fact that both of them are blank slates for society to mold us into the roles we are filled into. Yet there is an uncanny tone in the way the Speaker orders the applicant to 'stop crying', when the Speaker 'fits him for his suit', almost represented the short moment of the man's resistance to conforming to society, which is quickly overcome by the fact that it is his 'last resort', it is the typical sequence in the robotic cycle of society, In this mechanized society, then, the roles for both men and women are then laid out and clearly defined, and beyond that they have no other purpose. Although the both of them start off as naked and empty, a jumbled heap of parts, the man at least can hide behind his 'suit' that gives shape and an identity to him, the suit could represent perhaps the stereotypical power accorded to a male in our patriarchal society, or his working class job, the role he plays in a bureaucratic society. ...read more.

Conclusion

In this the woman is reduced to merely put up qualities, her creation was made for the man and marriage is a necessity. The use of affectionate terms such as 'sweetie' and 'my boy' further transforms this into a sadistic irony, the Speaker bears no real affection for the woman or the man, and the treatment of them is cold and clinical, in the resolving of a business deal and forcing them into well-made roles in society. The use of the word 'it' instead of 'her' further reduces the woman into a mere automaton and commodity on sale for the man's satisfaction. Thus in the poem the self is seen as trapped within the closed cycle of society. One moves- but only in a circle and continuously back to the same starting point. Rather than the self and the world, the world constrains and limits the individual to protocols and systems of behaviour, where the self is intimately and inextricably bound up with those of the world. People are merely trapped in their crippled bodies that are jumbled up heaps of fragmented parts, marriage is a forced and artificial institution, where women are commodities for the pleasure of men. There is no real meaning, or purpose to life in the cycle, and the roles of both parties will last with each succumbing generation. ...read more.

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