Apostrophe & Personification: Poetic Comparison

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Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem, "Ode to the West Wind" and Sylvia Plath's poem "Mirror" both employ the poetic tools of apostrophe, the address to something that is intangible, and personification, the application of human characteristics to something inanimate. However, they form a paradox in the usage of these tools through the imagery they create. Both poets have breathed life into inanimate objects, however death and aging are the prominent themes within both of these works.

In "Ode to the West Wind", Shelley personifies many of nature's elements by attaching descriptions of remains of death that are typically human. He begins the poem with a simile by comparing the autumn leaves to ghosts. Though leaves are in fact, living things, the term "ghost" implies a spirit or presence from a living being who has passed on. To become a ghost, it is necessary to have a soul and this is specific to humans and other mammals. Shelley uses the idea of giving a soul to an inanimate object in the second stanza of his poem as well. In the fourth line, he uses angels as a metaphor for decaying leaves. Here, the reader is compelled to envision spirit beings falling from the sky with the rain and lightning. In another area of the poem where Shelley applies human death attributes, he states that each of the "winged seeds" is "like a corpse within its grave" (Charters, p. 871). Again, he gives us the image of a human who has died and is lying in he or she's burial place.

In the third stanza of Shelley's poem, he uses personification by assigning emotion to some of nature's elements. In the eleventh line, Shelley declares that the "sea-blooms and the oozy woods" will "suddenly grow grey with fear". The emotions he assigns are relative to the idea of death. These are the feelings that humans develop when they feel that death is near. Shelley has again, managed to give the reader an intense image of foliage shaking in their roots at the thought of the west wind's...
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