Sylvia Plath Poem Comparison Essay

Topics: Poetry, Sylvia Plath, Confessional poetry Pages: 5 (1835 words) Published: March 20, 2013
Sylvia Plath Poem Comparison Essay

Saying Sylvia Plath was a troubled woman would be an understatement. She was a dark poet, who attempted suicide many times, was hospitalized in a mental institution, was divorced with two children, and wrote confessional poems about fetuses, reflection, duality, and a female perspective on life. Putting her head in an oven and suffocating was probably the happiest moment in her life, considering she had wanted to die since her early twenties. However, one thing that was somewhat consistent throughout her depressing poetry would be the theme of the female perspective. The poems selected for analysis and comparison are, ”A Life”(1960),”You’re”(1960), “Mirror” (1961), “The Courage of Shutting-Up” (1962) and finally, “Kindness” (1963). All five of these previously discussed poems have some sort of female perspective associated with them, and that commonality is the focus point of this essay. The first poem listed, “A Life”, was written in November 1960, and is a fairly long poem for Plath’s standards. There are eight stanzas, and thirty five lines, and one overall message. The general message of the poem is to discuss appearance and reality, and to compare them. Plath reiterates that appearance cannot be maintained, and she uses a mix of delicate diction in the beginning-to represent appearances- and transitions to aggressive diction when she moves back to reality. The female perspective is most prevalent when Plath starts the “reality” part of the poem, and talks about a woman, who seems to be hospitalized, and isolated like a “fetus in a bottle.” The idea of a troubled patient seems to be a personal reflection on Plath’s asylum days. “A Life” begins delicately, and Plath uses phrases such as “clear as a tear”, or “…glass…will ping like a Chinese chime… though nobody looks up or bothers to answer…” to create a sort of “fishbowl effect”- a fragile, yet isolated world, transparent and watched by others. Plath also uses water-like diction, like “sea waves”, “sea”, and even the darker word, “drowned” to create such an effect. When the poem transitions back to reality, it seems like the previously mentioned “fishbowl” was just thrown into the violent ocean. Plath uses diction like “private blitzkrieg”, “fetus in a bottle” “grief and anger”, and even “age and terror” to create the awkward, violent, and even disturbing reality that this woman in the poem lives in. “You’re”, written in 1960 during Plath’s pregnancy, is a poem about Sylvia’s baby-to-be. There are two stanzas, each with nine lines, as to represent the nine months of pregnancy. The female perspective here couldn’t be more obvious- a pregnant mother reflecting on her pregnancy and describing her child; men can’t share that experience. “You’re” is one of Plath’s happier poems, and doesn’t go very deep as some of her other poems do. The first stanza is describing the unborn fetus as “clownlike”, “moon-skulled” and “gilled.” Visualizing a fetus with an underdeveloped head, upside-down and breathing in liquid constantly is explanation enough for this diction. Plath also discusses the nocturnal nature of babies, and the silence of the bread-like creature growing inside her. The second stanza discusses the idea that a baby is “looked for like mail”, and that the fetus seems snug and jumpy. The most profound line in the entire poem is the last line, “A clean slate, with your own face on”, describing the baby’s soon-to-be new beginnings as a fresh start, a “clean slate.” “Mirror” written in 1961, is the quintessential of Plath poems, in that it expresses three of Plath’s most common themes greatly in one depressing poem: duality, reflection, and the female perspective. The female perspective in this poem is best described as a troubled woman who constantly searches for the truth in mirrors, but finds no answers. The mirror discussed in the first stanza is exact and truthful, but almost pretentious, in that it considers itself almost...
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