Sylvia Plath's Words for a Nursery

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Sylvia Plath's Words for a Nursery

Sylvia Plath’s “Words for a Nursery” depicts the embodiment of life through the symbolism of a human hand. Referring to the hand many times throughout various works(“Mirrors”, “Tulips”, “Lady Lazarus”, etc), Plath continually portrays this feature as a bodily tool around which life functions. After becoming pregnant with her first child, Plath’s analysis of the progression of life from birth to death can be seen within such a poem. Like most of her poetry, “Words for a Nursery” escalates in a positive manner until the end where death is expressed, and a sense of pessimism is briefly felt. As she suggests, life begins with the opening of the hand, the first action which will lead to eventual awareness of the world. Through her analysis of the detailed elements of the hand, and her emphasis on its ability to learn its role, Plath examines the phases of life by expressing a new stage within each stanza. From birth, through life, and finally to old age and death, Plath draws upon a series of images to metaphorically describe human existence in life’s endless cycle.

Throughout “Words for a Nursery”, Plath uses various stylistic devices to relate the human hand to the progression of life. With the whole poem existing as an extended metaphor, the author encourages a reader to interpret and search for meaning. As Plath opens with “Rosebud, knot of worms”, the beginning of human life is seen. The baby’s crunched fist is a “rosebud”, it’s fingers a “knot of worms”.

Continuing, we read “Heir of the first five / Sharpers; I open”. Here, readers infer that with the opening of the child’s five fingers, life begins. Although Plath does not directly state this meaning, her creativ...

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...eased comprehension of life and its cycle. Since Plath uses the first person point of view to describe life as an experience, her accepted wisdom creates a natural style. She understands life to be a cycle, where even in death, life of another (in this case the “thin crows”) continues. Although pessimism toward death is evident, Plath regards life as a progression. The hand opens to allow life to begin, learns its function, and remains active until it reaches old age, where it then becomes weak and eventually dies. Through such a beautifully written metaphor, a reader learns that life is a continual development up to the time of death. From the origin to decease of individual life, the hand, just like the human, experiences growth. From thistle to silk, and rosebud to rose, life is a road of unforeseen events, all paths leading to the progression of existence.
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