Empowerment of Women in Sylvia Plath's Lady Lazarus and Eavan Boland's Anorexic

Empowerment of Women in Sylvia Plath's Lady Lazarus and Eavan Boland's Anorexic

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Empowerment of Women in Sylvia Plath's Lady Lazarus and Eavan Boland's Anorexic


Although the title foreshadows an extrinsic approach, this essay mostly features intrinsic analysis. Eavan Boland's "Anorexic" seems descendent from Sylvia Plath's "Lady Lazarus": the two share common elements, yet have significant differences. An examination of the poems' themes reveals that self-destructiveness can serve as empowerment for women.

Plath explores Lady Lazarus' nontraditional view of suicide in her poem; (since Plath does not give the speaker of the poem a name, I will refer to her as Lady Lazarus). Lady Lazarus reveals her first suicide was accidental, but she reveals that her two subsequent deaths have been deliberate. This is significant as she is not speaking of attempts, but actual suicides; also, she establishes her intention. In describing the woman's attitude, Plath varies between using metaphors, such as "It's the theatrical/Comeback in broad day" (51-52), and similes: "my skin/Bright as Nazi lampshade" (4-5); "I rocked shut/As a seashell" (38-39). Plath's indifferent and almost positive connotations suggest Lady Lazarus embraces death as indicative of her ability to survive. Also, the poem's structure of three-line stanzas is symbolic of this being Lady Lazarus' third suicide. After her suicide, Lady Lazarus declares she is only "Ash," "Flesh, bone,"(75) "A cake of soap/A wedding ring,/A gold filling" (76-78): she does not reminisce about who she was, but rather, literally what she now is. Plath's repetition of "ash" indicates Lady Lazarus' preoccupation: "I turn and burn" (71); Lady Lazarus does not express resentment towards this death, likely symbolic, as she does not articulate the exact method. Furthermore, Lady...


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...logy with negative self-image to create an extreme view that women fell from grace when they needed to eat, making this poem, like anorexia, evocative of sympathy: women should not feel as though they need to deprive their human needs to improve their humanity.

These poems should not be considered negative examples of female rationale, but rather, allegories of empowerment: by their own choices, Lady Lazarus rises like the phoenix, and the anorexic woman matures spiritually, each through her own death. Furthermore, each woman acts as the source of morality, as Lady Lazarus transcends heaven and hell, and the anorexic woman judges herself. Though the cause of the anorexic woman's desire is not clear, her reaction, like Lady Lazarus', is a choice free from God, as Nietzsche explains. Thus by destroying themselves, these women are actually asserting their autonomy.

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