Essay on Lady Lazarus, by Sylvia Plath

Essay on Lady Lazarus, by Sylvia Plath

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“Lady Lazarus” provides unfiltered insight into the emotions and desires of a deeply tormented woman. Having been denied a relationship with her father, abased by a dissatisfied mother, betrayed by her husband, and deprived of the ability to take her own life, Sylvia Plath was desperately seeking control. Plath’s “Lady Lazarus” contains her evolution from a tortured and paranoid soul to a powerful feministic icon that seems to be more than human. Despite the openness of the poem, in nature and in form, the disturbing imagery works to place tremendous distance between the poet and the reader. While this places Plath at the center of a spectacle—a situation for which she clearly expresses her discontent—she secures a commanding position in which spectators could only view with detached fascination. Written in the tempestuous period surrounding Plath’s 30th birthday, the work contains vivid descriptions of her pain, but at its core it is a woman’s struggle for control. As the poem develops, Plath moves from a vulnerable state of suffering and weakness to a position in which she seizes control of life and death, warning God and Lucifer of her newfound power. Plath rises in steps throughout the poem, as if it were an outline of her strategy. The poet demonstrates the method in which she must first control her oppressors as well as her own experiences of suicide, later being rendered capable of completing this transformation as a result of her election to return to wreak havoc rather than embrace a mundane lifestyle.
Stretched thin by the tribulations of her condition, the speaker, assumed to be Plath, likens her skin to a Nazi lampshade. Having recently been revived from her third suicide attempt, Plath is not yet human; she is a la...


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... mind of a suicidal woman. The poet most likely did not intend to direct her wrath outward in the future nor did she aim to survive nine total suicides, but her emotions and reasoning contain moralistic value. In describing her desire for control, Plath conveyed to the reader what factors lead an individual to seek suicide, how to sympathize with them, and indirectly, how to provide help. Ending the poem with rebirth into a life in which Plath possesses control indicates that she retained hope of leaving her anguish behind. However, the poem contains scattered hints regarding the volatility of a suicidal individual, suggesting that the poet’s final suicide was not contemplated rationally; it was executed in a moment of overwhelming excitement. While “Lady Lazarus” is a work of literary skill, its value within the context of Plath’s life is much more valuable.




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