Of all the characters in Spoon River, only one has the key ingredient that makes the book complete; that person is Zilpha Marsh. Even though Zilpha is mentioned only once within the book, she represents a controversial issue debated everywhere and can be related to people in real life. Zilpha represents mystery, supernatural, and spiritual beings, every word that is written about her suggest a deeper and more complex meaning; her entire character permeates an eerie feeling that adds the extra spice to Soon River. Zilpha is the only character that follows a different pattern and has the most character within a poem. Although the poem stated nothing about her death, family, friends, or even her life, the words and emotions within the text point the reader in several different directions. With the use of imagery Masters is able to unravel an entire story, creating an atmosphere that can make anyone's skin crawl. Also the rhetorical terms used within the poem helped to create Zilpha's very being. Many possibilities can be inferred from the text about Zilpha's life, death, friends & family and more, giving her the appearance of a complex person. As experiences shape everyone's characters, Zilpha's shape hers. As the poem unfolds, many views can be seen for Zilpha; however, with many varying aspects of character, one could speculate that Zilpha isn't one person, but a part of everyone.
Zilpha Marsh, from the very beginning creates an eerie atmosphere, with such vivid imagery as: wind howling, leaves blowing, fires creating a spectral glow, shadows cast on the walls, barren fields, and this entire taking place in an empty school house in late October. Even the date and time themselves suggest a supernatural feel. Late October would be around Halloween, which is supposed to be one of the spookiest times of the year, where spirits rise from the dead and are among the living. In addition, the time, 4 o' clock, is the prime hour for that time of year where the sun is setting, creating this feeling of darkness. Darkness is a common fear of people and so is cleverly employed not only here but in another description of light fading. When the fire in the stove starts to die and the shadows are cast upon the walls, they represent another form of darkness closing in on the reader. Another scare tactic used is the empty school house, similar to the effect of the empty library, where no one else is around and Zilpha is all alone. With the school house being located so far away from the town and the major roads, Zilpha would be even more isolated, and a fear humans have is loneliness. So if the element of Darkness, and being totally and completely alone wasn't enough, Zilpha had to be attempting to contact the spirits, which is another fear people have; however, the fear of ghosts isn't all within the presence of a spectral being but is with the hidden fear behind the mask, the fear of Death. Whether it's death of the soul or death of the body that people are afraid of is hard to say, for some even the thought of being detached from their body and worldly possessions is enough to cause a "freak out." With all of these settings created a story many read in grade school may come to mind, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow with the lead character Ichabod Crane, is an excellent comparison to Zilpha Marsh in more ways than one. Ichabod Crane worked in a school house far from town and he was very superstitious and believed in the supernatural, as does Zilpha. Also, both were outcasts and awkward to the townspeople. With all of the imagery and scare tactics, Zilpha Marsh created the perfectly spooky atmosphere to encase her character. An additional way that created the mood and rhythm for Zilpha Marsh was the use of rhetorical terms.
Several terms were used within the small poem that created a rhythm and added excitement to the composure of the poem. For example Anaphora's were used repeatedly within the poem in the...