When one is in a fog, one can see nothing but an endless amount of grey, covering the area. When one is outside of the fog, one sees a cloud. Fogs and clouds serve as metaphors for many subjects. They could mean the last bit of opportunity before a bitter ending, or lack of clarity, or even lack of boundaries. Many writers use such metaphors in books, and they have become almost cliché. Poets also use such techniques less frequently. Both Sylvia Plath and Carl Sandburg have used those themes at least once. Their poems, "Sheep in Fog” by Sylvia Plath (Ariel) and “Fog” by Carl Sandburg (Chicago) share a similar theme of fog and can tell much about personal experiences they had at the time of writing. Their lives also help illuminate their stances on life, such as realism versus idealism, and depression versus optimism.
From the title of Sylvia Plath’s poem, “Sheep in Fog”, one can imagine a few possible meanings. One may think that the sheep signified a spiritual encounter, or even approaching death, for “Sheep in Fog” was one of Plath’s last poems. Another may think of the Orwellian “sheep” metaphor, where sheep means ignorant people. Yet another could be knowing something is there, but not knowing, or fearing, its existence. Sheep and fog are similarly colored, so it could be a metaphor for not knowing what to do next. Ted Hughes, her former husband, states in On Sylvia Plath, “The last Ariel poem, "Sheep in Fog," came on December 2nd. This was also the last poem she wrote (except for the unfinished "Eavesdropper") until after the novel was published. It was then the first poem she picked up, on January 28th, when she made the correction that revealed it as the elegy and funeral cortege for the Ariel inspiration” (On Plath). Sylvia Plath committed suicide later that year, on February 11, 1963. Plath used elements of whiteness in the poem, signifying this was not necessarily about commoners going through a time of no clear-cut reality, but actually more of purity, or the end of times.
Despite the thought of purity, Plath was very troubled in her life. The biography of Plath in The Norton Anthology of American Literature explains, “Plath’s well-known autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, has nothing of the brilliance of her poems, but it effectively dramatizes the stereotyping of women’s roles in the 1950’s, and the turmoil of a young woman only partly aware that her gifts and ambitions greatly exceed the options available toward her” (2598). In other words, she didn’t talk about how great a poet she was, but she didn’t fail to mention all the turmoil and stereotyping of the 1950’s, as well as her own troubles. A year after she got divorced from Ted Hughes, another poet, she committed suicide (2599). Her tragic life may have been channeled through the poem “Sheep in Fog”, included in the book Ariel, which her former husband published a year after she had died.
The poem “Sheep in fog” may create a different meaning than...