Subversion of Motherhood and Womanhood in Plath

Topics: Gender role, Woman, Gender Pages: 3 (848 words) Published: August 23, 2013
Drawing on your understanding of the poem as well as the critical perspectives that you have gathered regarding Plath’s work, to what extent does Plath use poetic language to subvert the stereotypical image of womanhood and motherhood in her poems “Morning Song” and “The Applicant” -------------------------------------------------

The poetry of Sylvia Plath reflects the entrapment of women in stereotypical gender roles that was the norm in the 1950s and 1960s. As a poet, Plath explores what it means to be a woman in terms of the traditional conflict between family and career, a concern which was one she was almost obsessed with, writing ‘I am afraid of getting married. Spare me from cooking three meals a day – spare me from the relentless cage of routine and rout. I want to be free…’ Through the use of poetic language, she is able to subvert the stereotypical image of womanhood and motherhood, and this is especially seen in her poems ‘Morning Song’ and ‘The Applicant’.

‘The Applicant’ is a portrait of marriage as seen in contemporary Western culture, and Plath writes back at the portrayal of women as objects and marriage is presented as filling a need in a way similar to that of a cast or prosthesis. The ‘courtship’ and ‘wedding’ in the poem is representative of human relations and the central metaphor of job seeking links the poem with capitalism of the cold war era, patriarchal family structure and the alienation of human relations. The interrogative tone of the opening line ‘First, are you our sort of person’ continues throughout the poem, establishing the confrontational ‘business-like’ style of a market-place barter, where the ‘object’ to be sold is the woman offered in marriage. The imagery of dehumanization opens the poem, describing people as dismembered body pieces that aren’t even flesh “a glass eye, false teeth or a crutch…rubber breasts or a rubber crotch” In this imagery, Plath is able to subvert the image of women as objects, portraying them...
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