Critical Analysis of Mrs Lazarus

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This poem consists of 8 regular stanzas, each stanza being a quintet. Throughout the poem, no particular rhyme scheme is conveyed and the sentence length varies in each stanza. This poem is entirely constructed in 1st person narrative.

Stanza 1

“I had grieved” – past tense – descriptive – suggests that sorrow was previously present however there is none now. Description of graveyard implies that this was a terrifying/chilling experience for her.

“Married” implies that she had wed the person she had lost. Next line portrays that she must have got married on the day that her husband died if she had ripped her wedding clothes from her body.

This stanza provides the reader with physicality by the use of the words “ripped”, “howled”, “shrieked”, “clawed”, “retched” etc. - onomatopoeic - portray a violent narrator. “howled”, “clawed” – anthropomorphic.

Repetition – “over and over”, “dead, dead”. – symbolise that she thought of him repeatedly. This stanza displays as her almost hating him because he died.

Sentence Structure – Short sentence to start – illustrates immediacy. Long sentence follows – symbolising how long she has grieved over the one she had lost – how long the process of recovery had been.

Language – emotional, aggressive, sinister, chilling.

Overall tone – depressing, graphic/gruesome.

Themes – death, sorrow, aftermath.

Stanza 2

Remains in past tense.

“Gutted” – associated with gutting fish – unpleasant – symbolising destruction of her home.

Colour change from “white” to “dark” – conveys “white” as being before he died (symbol of purity, holiness), and “dark” as the world she is in now that he is gone (symbol of evil, desperation)

Symbolism of isolation – “Single cot” (relates to Mrs Quasimodo i.e. “Single silver fish”), “widow”, “one empty glove”, “half” – sense of her feeling incomplete.

“White femur”– bones – “dust” – ashes – relates to the fact that her husband is now reduced to this because he is dead.

“Stuffed dark suits into black bags” – implies a murder? Could reveal her suicidal nature – her husband’s death had, inevitably, driven her to her own death.

“noosed the double knot of the tie round my bare neck” – the only way she can dispel the isolation is to kill herself. “double” - sense of being whole again.

Sense that her grieving continues.

“bare neck” refers back to the 1st stanza where she had stripped herself of her clothes.

Sentence Structure – Short, simplistic, reflecting a child’s dialect i.e. “Gone home”

Language – unemotional – could symbolise her method of recuperation

Overall tone – graphic, angry, vengeful, remorseful

Themes – neglect, isolation, suicide

Stanza 3

Continues on from second stanza.

Religious reference – “gaunt nun” – reference to her imposed celibacy (duty to stay faithful to her dead husband). “Stations of Bereavement” – relates to Stations of the Cross – symbolising that she, like Jesus, has to struggle. “icon of my face” relates to statues and figures in churches – also implies that her facial expression remains the same since the day of her husband’s death.

“touching herself” – conveys that the only pleasure she is able to achieve would be by touching herself.

Following lines imply that these were the only memories that she had of him i.e. he “dwindled” away. Her only memories of him were of his illness. “shrunk to the size of a snapshot” – modernisation – a picture remains only a memory, as had Mrs Lazarus’s husband.

Sentence Structure – Long – broken with commas – symbolises constant bereavement

Language – religious, frustrated yet sorrowful, modern

Overall tone – frustrated, resentful

Themes – celibacy, religion

Stanza 4

Continues from third stanza with repletion of “going” – displays the fact that she does not feel as though he is gone yet.

Tangible memories of Lazarus i.e. the hair fallen from his...
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