An Explication of Sylvia Plath's "Lady Lazarus"

Topics: Sylvia Plath, Irony, Suicide Pages: 3 (864 words) Published: June 16, 2009
In an interview with Peter Orr in 1962, Sylvia Plath said, "I believe that one should be able to control and manipulate experiences, even the most terrifying..." In using her own experiences with attempted suicide and involuntary resurrection, Plath has done just that in "Lady Lazarus." Plath continued with: "I think that personal experience is very important, but certainly it shouldn't be a kind of shut-box and mirror-looking, narcissistic experience. I believe it should be relevant, and relevant to the larger things, the bigger things..." Practicing what she preaches, Plath goes beyond her personal experience and encapsulates an entire issue of female oppression in her semi-biographical writing. She also illustrates this sentiment by creating Holocaust-related similes and metaphors. These correlations are only a part of the dark streak the speaker paints throughout "Lady Lazarus." The speaker here is able to do all this while parodying her own torment, and therefore giving herself the means to control it.

In "Lady Lazarus", Plath often mocks herself and the gravity of the poem's subject. Deliberately flippant parts of the poem include the speaker sounding like a carnival barker; calling in the public to see "the big strip-tease." These lines about the persistence and wonder of "the peanut-crunching crowd" are mockingly strident and scornfully obnoxious. A more subdued sense of irony is presented by several obviously sarcastic lines, such as the description of dying being "an art, like everything else." When the speaker goes further to state that she dies "exceptionally well," it is almost as if she is chuckling to herself through a resentful smirk, sneering at her own inherent sense of tragedy. These tongue-in-cheek comments towards her misery may also be directed in part to taunt her "Enemy". Even from the beginning, when Plath refers to another suicide attempt as achieving something ("One year in every ten/ I manage it ----"), the more-sensitive reader...
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