“Inside the Works of Plath”
Silvia Plath writings are considered to the first and best examples of confrontational and confessional poetry of her time. Plath had the uncanny ability to take real life events and turn them into surreal metaphor with in her poetry. Even though Plath poetry was unique for its time, her work shows the thumbprints of other poets that help to influence this distinctive style. One of those writers was T.S. Eliot. By time Plath was coming into her won as a poet, Eliot was already a legend and was arguably the most important English poet of the 20th century. It would be easy to see why Plath, aspiring to be a great poet herself, would be greatly influenced by Eliot.
One of the ways we can see Eliot’s influence on Plath is in her use of surreal imagery mixed with opposing ideas with in her poems. An example of this method can be found in her poem “Tulips.” In this poem Plath writes, “They have propped my head between the pillow and the sheet-cuff/ Like an eye between two whit lids that will never shut.” (8-9, Plath) The lines show Plath’s ability to cause tension in her poetry by giving her readers a smooth descriptive line and then following it with chaotic and unreal metaphors. This technique causes the surreal image to be delivered very quickly as the poem is being read. By using this technique as a resource, Plath is able to clearly covey her emotions to her readers. Eliot gives us the same effect in his poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” where he gives his readers a description of “Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?”(72, Eliot) but then follows the line with a bizarre image “I should have been a pair of ragged claws/Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.”(73-74, Eliot). Although these poets’ uses of surreal metaphors seem similar, Plath gives this method her own stamp by personalizing it, unlike Eliot who used the character of Prufrock to convey emotion. By incorporating her personal feelings...
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