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Sylvia Plath by Celeste Larson and Breanna Erickson

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 5 months ago

Sylvia Plath-



 Sylvia Plath Typing 


  Sylvia in Yorksire, England (1956)              


Sylvia Plath had found a love for poetry at a very young age. She first starting writing poetry at age five and had one of her works published, right after her father died, at the age of eight. The death of her father lead to the poem “Daddy” in which she expressed rather intense emotions about him. Critic Roger Platizky believes Slyiva was at that time of her life in which, “a child, anxiously separated from a parent, compulsively pushes and pulls a spool forward and backward in an unconscious, ritualized attempt to master the anxiety that is produced by the parent's unreliable presence”. She was a very intelligent individual graduating second in her high school class and first in Boston University class. Throughout those years her poetry continuously progressed as she received much recognition and more publications in newspapers and magazines. She was popular and dated plenty of boys, but her insomnia, depression, and thoughts of suicide eventually caught up with her. Sylvia seemed to be never satisfied with herself, despite successes of her poems, as she would be extremely stressed out and atmptempted multiple times. After Plath’s first attempt at suicide, she wrote her poem “Lady Lazarus” because she felt as if she "had been on the other side of life like Lazarus" (critical article). In a critical article Laura Dahlke explains Plath wrote the poem to help deal with her crises and through it “reveals a struggle for power with a cruel deity that ends in annihilation”. Her depression subsided as she hit another breakthrough and ended up meeting her future husband Ted Huges, at a party

celebrating her success. The relationship was abusive and unfaithful, which later ended up in a divorce with Huges leaving her for Assia Wevill. Her depression returnd when she was thirty,and committed suicide by sitting in front of an open oven, breathing in its gases.




You do not do, you do not do

Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time--
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You--

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.

If I've killed one man, I've killed two--
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.

In the first part of the poem Sylvia is speaking of how her Father is no longer there

keeping her in darkness where she is unable to do much of anything. She begins to

describe him as a ghastly figure giving the poem a dark tone in the way she views

her Father bitterly. In the lines:

I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root”

I believe that she is saying that her father was unreadable and she was unable to tell what was on his mind.

Expressing how she really never knew him or his background. When she says how she thought every German

was him and how she began to claim she was Jewish it could be in comparison to the Nazi’s and the Jews

with her father’s parenting to his daughter.

“I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.”

In these lines it gives us not only a physical description but shows once again

how she had seen her father as a neat man not regarding him highly calling him a fascist

and a brute and implying he’s has Nazi characteristics.

Then the poem shifts gears in the line:
“At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.”

It seems that perhaps Sylvia’s depression and darker parts of her mind are sparked up by memories of her father

when she encounters a vampire I believe to be her husband who is just like her father. So when she says she kills

two men instead of just the one in her poem it is husband and father she is killing in her mind and putting

to rest those relationships.

Lady Lazarus
Click to hear Sylvia Plath reading the poem
I have done it again.

One year in every ten
I manage it--

A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot

A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine
Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?--

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.

Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me

And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.

This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.

What a million filaments.
The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot--
The big strip tease.
Gentlemen, ladies

These are my hands
My knees.
I may be skin and bone,

Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.

The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut

As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I've a call.

It's easy enough to do it in a cell.
It's easy enough to do it and stay put.
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.
There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart--
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.

I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash--
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there--

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.
In Sylvia Plath’s “Lady Lazarus” she expresses feelings of hardship and 
personal suffering. This poem was written shortly following a suicide
attempt, therefore she was obviously going through a great deal of pain while
constructing this poem. The first lines of the poem explain her struggles of
growing up as a Jew,
“A sort of walking miracle, my skin 
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot

A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine
Jew linen.”
Her thoughts of suicide begin at this point in her life as she 
realizes the experience and torture a Jew must go through.
Sylvia compares herself to a cat, “And like the cat I have nine times to
die.”, meaning she has proceeded surviving after the several times she has
almost killed herself. The whole poem itself has a lot to do with dying and
her attempts to commit suicide. She explains her views on dying and how she
believes it feels in the lines:
“Dying Is an art,
like everything else,
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I've a call.”
The poem really lays out the way a 
suicidal person thinks for its audience.

(from EBSCOhost for Daddy)

(EBSCOhost for Lady)

For more information about Sylvia Plath's life: http://www.neuroticpoets.com/plath/

Comments (11)

Anonymous said

at 9:29 am on May 10, 2007

I am curious as to our explination of the poem Daddy. You stated that she wrote it when she was eight so I don't understand how the part with her husband could get in there. She hadn't met him yet.

Anonymous said

at 9:29 am on May 10, 2007

I liked how you gave good detail into why Sylvia Path wrote her poems the way she did. It made it easier to understand why she wrote about what she these topics.

Anonymous said

at 9:40 am on May 10, 2007

What a great accomplishment to have your poem be published when you are only 5. Poems were probably her escape because on the outside it seemed like she had a pretty good life.

Anonymous said

at 9:43 am on May 10, 2007

To the first comment: In her bio. we wrote, "The death of her father lead to the poem “Daddy”", not meaning she wrote it directly after. The death of her father forced a desire on her at a later age to write the poem about him.

Anonymous said

at 9:45 am on May 10, 2007

Very nice descriptions, it seems Plath was very bitter and hostile towards her father...kinda sad. Otherwise good job you guys.

Anonymous said

at 9:48 am on May 10, 2007

Good poems, long but still good. The first one she kind of seems like she wanted to kill her dad, but your explantion at the end was helpful.

Anonymous said

at 9:50 am on May 10, 2007

First poem seemed like hate-sauce about the father, both are good works. -IH

Anonymous said

at 9:51 am on May 10, 2007

Before reading your interpretations, both poems were kind of confusing. The explanations were great and really helpful when it came to understanding what Sylvia was trying to get across to her readers. Although, her poems are kind of disturbing, that's the stuff people like to read the most, right?

Anonymous said

at 9:53 am on May 10, 2007

wow- the daddy poem is very strong, i took class about holocaust and felt so scary when the poem did mention about jew n nazi. I like the poems and description. good jobb- katy k.

Anonymous said

at 9:53 am on May 10, 2007

History of the poet really helped in understanding her emotions and reasoning behind the poems. Poor thing to have her father die when she is so young, nobody should have to go through that. Good Job Guys! :)

Anonymous said

at 9:59 am on May 10, 2007

Most interesting one I've read so far. Normally I think of poets as outcast eccentrics yet Plath, popular with boys and a top notch student seems to shatter that mold. Unfortunate that she could never shake her personal demons. Good page!

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