Lady Lazarus , Sylvia Plath's Confessional Poetry

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LADY LAZARUS, by Sylvia Plath. Review. 2012.

Suicide in every culture is considered to be very taboo, seen as overtly morbid and disturbing. However it has also made many people famous. Sylvia Plath, a twentieth century poet, was one of them. She was a ‘straight A’ student throughout her whole life, writing her first poem at eight years old. Just days after writing this poem, her father died. This event, specialists believe was the catalyst that caused a lot of her anguish and depression. Plath uses these highly strung emotions in her poem “Lady Lazarus.” After her first near successful suicide at twenty years old, she met her husband to be. Another poet Ted Hughes, though after adultery on both sides occurred, the marriage finally ended. After the end of the marriage, her suicidal tendencies began once again.

Lady Lazarus is a confessional poem, as it was written during that feverish time in her life, also with the use of self-parody. It is a complex analysis of her love hate relationship with death and suicide. After reading the title a first impression is made, of a biblical allusion. In the book Johns Lazarus of Bethany, Lazarus is resurrected from the dead by Jesus. In the poem Plath or Lady Lazarus is resurrected, after each suicide attempt by the doctors. Her choice to change the gender of Lazarus to a lady projects a feminist ideal, an image of a female that’s powerful. The strong theme of death and decay of human flesh is throughout the poem. Plath also uses historical allusions of Nazis and the Jewish Holocaust. The poem uses, morbid, symbolisms that evokes chilling imagery. Another strong theme is feminism, and the love hate relationship with the men in her life, this would seem to be her father and her husband, Ted Hughes. Plath also bitterly referred to her father as a Nazi and herself a Jew.

Lady Lazarus introduces the reader to suicide and death instantly, ‘I have done it again’, tells the reader that it isn’t the first time she’s attempted suicide. Then with little emotion declares, she ‘manages’ to do it once every decade. She continues with the use of a metaphor and simile. ‘Skin as bright as a Nazi lampshade’, here she uses a historical allusion to the Nazis making their lampshades out of Jewish skin. There is also striking alliteration that personifies her face. ‘My face featureless, fine Jew linen’. The ‘miracle in this stanza biblically alludes to Lazarus rising from the dead.

“Peel off the napkin
O my enemy
Do I terrify?”

The last stanza at the start of the poem, include the first use of sarcasm which is used again throughout Lady Lazarus. Plath is daring her enemy to ‘Peel off the napkin’. Then in a more threatening tone asks, ’Do I terrify?’ in the introduction she is addressing a singular person/enemy. As the poem progresses, the reader become numerous, as her identities are discovered. Lady Lazarus has to be a different voice or character for each one, though none of these personalities are bearable to her.

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

The fifth stanza is the beginning of Lady Lazarus recovering from her third suicide attempt. Letting the reader know from experience she will recover quickly. ‘The sour breath will vanish in a day’ The next stanzas are continuing her restoration back to her original self ’and I a smiling women’. A subtle feminist tone, that’s suggesting people in society judge women externally. With her smiling façade, she also makes the boastful statement that, ‘like a cat I have nine times to die’. ‘This is number Three’. The capitalisation of the word three exhibits her thoughts on this being an, exciting event for her, in which the numbers are likely to grow. This also translates Plath’s romantic and passionate relationship with death. Then her boastful manner turns to disgust, with a personification of death as a love object, which is portrayed in, ‘what a trash/to annihilate each decade.’ The...
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