The Ariel-period poems of Sylvia Plath demonstrate her desire for rebirth, to escape the body that was "drummed into use" by men and society. I will illustrate the different types of rebirth with examples from the Ariel poems, including "Lady Lazarus," "Fever 103," "Getting There," and "Cut."
"Lady Lazarus," the last of the October poems, presents Plath as the victim with her aggression turned towards "her male victimizer (33)." Lady Lazarus arises from Herr Doktor's ovens as a new being, her own incarnation, "the victim taking on the powers of the victimizers and drumming herself into uses that are her own" (33). Linda Bundtzen also sees the poem as "an allegory about the woman artist's struggle for autonomy. The female creature of a male artist-god is asserting independent creative powers" (33). Plath confronts Herr Doktor:
Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air. (Plath 246-247)
Lady Lazarus after her psychic death became stronger than her creator: " Male- female antagonism ends with the woman defiantly asserting power over her body and releasing its energies for her own ends" (Bundtzen 233). While the outcome of the poem is positive, "Plath turns on herself, identifying with her oppressor, and sadistically punishes her body in the process of
recreating it" (Bundtzen 237).
Plath did not see the rebirth process as a pleasant experience, but one that is expected of her "I guess you could say I've got a call" (Plath 245). She, however, sees the benefits that come from her suffering and continues the process again and again. "Fever 103" is also about a women releasing herself from...
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...poems what she thought she could not or did not achieve in life: the ability to do as she wanted, to be a mother and wife but not constricted into a domestic hell or to be pinned down by the oppressive society which did not accept her for being a poetess. She was able to "still speak from within her "deeper self" through her writing" (Kinsey-Clinton 1).
Alvarez, A. Sylvia Plath : A Memoir. New York: Harper and Row, 1985.
Bundtzen, Lynda K. Plath's Incarnations: Woman and the Creative Process.
USA: University of Michigan, 1988.
Kinsey-Clinton, Michelle. Once Upon a Time. (Online) Available http://www.sapphireblue.com/abyss404.html , August 17, 1998.
Perloff, Marjorie. "Angst and Animism in the Poetry of Sylvia Plath". Journal
Of Modern Literature. 1970: 57-74 .
Plath Sylvia. The Collected Poems. New York: Harper Perennial, 1992.
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