Poem Analysis of Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath

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Poem Analysis: Lady Lazarus

In American culture, suicide is considered to be one of the darkest taboos. It has the particular quality of being equally gripping and repulsive. Although suicide is seen as overtly morbid, gruesome and disturbing, it has made many people famous. Sylvia Plath, the illustrious 20th century poetess, is one of them.

Sylvia Plath was born on October 27th, 1932 of two parents in a middleclass household in Boston. At a very young age, she demonstrated great literary talent and a hardworking attitude, publishing her first poem at the age of eight and maintaining a straight A record throughout all of her studies. A few days after she turned eight, her father deceased of diabetes. This event in her life is what most specialists believe to have triggered her depressive tendencies. It has also been known to have caused the poet to hate her father for the pain his death inflicted on her. Twenty-year-old Plath committed her first near-successful suicide attempt after a whole month of not being able to sleep, write or eat properly. She recovered from her nervous breakdown and met her to-be husband, renowned poet Ted Hughes, three years later. However, after having their first child, their relationship started to go stale, and finally adultery on both their parts caused their painful separation. Soon enough, Sylvia returned to her old suicidal habits.

During this feverish period of her life, "Lady Lazarus" and other poems of that genre were written. "Lady Lazarus" conveys a message about her own life, obsessions, weaknesses, and feelings. In recording her previous suicide attempts, she makes comparisons that are not always obvious to decipher or to understand without the right background information. The poem serves as a metaphor that retains a morbid sensation through its description of the author’s psychological journey. This poem has always fascinated me in terms of the figurative language and the ever-precise vocabulary that is used. In light of her suicidal tendencies, while gathering the information necessary and using a decorticating method, I believe to have been able to make an estimated guess of the message Sylvia Plath intended to render when writing this poem. Take note that the entire "Lady Lazarus" poem can be found at the end of this essay.

Upon reading the title, a first impression is made. Plath creatively uses biblical allusion to connect the title of her poem, "Lady Lazarus," to the book of John's Lazarus of Bethany. As Lazarus was resurrected from the dead, so is Plath, or Lady Lazarus, 'reincarnated' after each suicide attempt. There is also a hint of her feministic side present in "lady," a word that projects an image of a powerful woman.

"I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it—"

This first stanza acts as an introduction to the poem. It introduces the idea of suicide and death. The first verse demonstrates this. "I have done it again" could be translated as "I have tried to kill myself again." When Plath declares "One year in every ten / I manage it," she refers to the equal repartition of her near-death experiences, one per decade and one being premeditated at this stage. She specifies these later on in the poem.

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

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

For the times when Plath was 'resurrected' from the dead, she refers to herself as "A sort of walking miracle," which reflects the meaning of the title; Lady Lazarus is miraculously raised from the dead. She then uses the gritty and powerful comparison "Bright as a Nazi lampshade" to describe her skin, which designates the suicidal tyrant that lives within her, and ends up contrasting this image with the softer more subdued metaphor, "a featureless, fine / Jew linen," to depict her face, which is the victim in a state of deterioration and weakness. These references to the holocaust are her...
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