THE MOON AND THE YEW TREE
This poem fundamentally details how Sylvia Plath sees her life, through the metaphors and images she was so fond of. By using the word "planetary" in the first line, we gain a sense of how she saw her role in the world - still part of the solar system, but living in her own world, disconnected and distanced from everyone else. The point of the poem is to illustrate the different relationships Sylvia Plath had with the three most important and influential people in her life; her dead father, her mother who offered her little, if any support, and the elusive Hughes. By deliberately identifying throughout the negative("She is not sweet like Mary") Plath subtly portrays herself as a victim, not accusing her mother of neglecting her, just suggesting and implying that one of the reasons for her "complete despair" is this women. Her parents never saw her depression, and Hughes was - seemingly - oblivious to her neediness, and she could not turn to religion for hope and comfort, finding blind faith to be restrictive. It is a desolate poem, haunting in its imagery and the empathy it inspires. Sylvia Plath is looking for a way back to herself, to life - she is suicidal. "Separated from my house by a row of headstones."
She seeks rescue and hope in religion "How I would like to believe in tenderness ----" but the saints are only cold delicate statues "stiff with holiness" and she finds no help. She seeks rescue through nature but nature treats her as if she were God and holds the answers to life's grief - she has no answers. She seeks rescue in the moon but the moon only reflects back her own wild and frightening despair and she is tormented by it. Separated from herself by thoughts of suicide she desperately looks to nature, the Holy Mother and church, and the sky - but all she ever sees are frightening reflections of herself, darkness and death. According to some critics/writers the Yew tree represents death, rebirth and resurrection. Also, the sap from the yew is poisonous, so it could have a number of interpretations. It is heartbreaking that Plath was looking at something so romantic and seeing something so desolate. The poem marks a time in her life when she felt nothing but sorrow which is why this poem is so deep. The moon-her mother is darkness and holds no way out. The Yew tree is a symbol a sign pointing to her mother, the moon. She feels uncomfortable here, the spirit of the dead all around her quilting her like a blanket. She moves steadfastly out of the graveyard, the moon, and the church teeming with spirits. She moves to her home, which is her safety and shield from the darkness. In The Moon and the Yew TreePlath is writing about her relationship with her parents and about her psychic state. The moon surfaces again and again as her mother. "Fumy, spiritous mists inhabit this place.
Separated from my house by a row of headstones."
She is not at her house (i.e. she is not comfortable & happy with her life), which would be the salvation. The only way of getting back to her house goes through the graveyard, and the graveyard is not the place she wants to go to. The churchyard's Yew points her Moon, but "The moon is no door", so it offers no escape, she just "simply cannot see where there is to get to". After presenting us with her nightmarish inner landscape, the Fatherless, hopeless underworld with "no door," note the subtly ironic diction with which Plath introduces the nearby church into this landscape: the bells "…bells startle the sky-
…affirming the Resurrection
…bong out their names."
A marvelous image that works on two distinct levels: First, we can imagine that Hughes’ each Sunday morning comically jolted from their breakfasts by these alarming bells; on the Second level, however, the sky, Nature itself, is jolted, giving us the sense of an artificial intrusion upon the natural order --- Christianity as an affront, almost, to the amoral reality of pagan Nature. This...
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