Death And Rebirth In The Poetry Of Sylvia Plath

2145 words - 9 pages

One of the running themes in many of Sylvia Plath's poems is that of death, dying, and rebirth. Her fascination with mortality ranges from reluctant acceptance to longing. In this essay I will examine both her view of death and rebirth as well as her view of death as a state of perfection as portrayed in the poems "Lady Lazarus," "Tulips," and "Edge."Published posthumously, "Lady Lazarus" paints a haunting portrait of a thirty year old woman who desperately longs for death, marking each decade with an attempt at suicide. The most obvious connection in this poem is that of the Bible's Lazarus of Bethany and Plath's title character. In the Bible when Lazarus dies Jesus raises him from the dead in front of a crowd so the non-believers may witness his powers. This parallels Plath's character of Herr Docktor, who resurrects Lady Lazarus in front of onlookers so as to advertise his power. (Collins, Teresa 1)Thus, Herr Docktor is identified as Lady Lazarus's enemy. "Dying/Is an art, like everything else./I do it exceptionally well." (Plath, Sylvia 1). By denying her success in her art Herr Docktor forces her to keep trying to commit suicide. (Curley, Maureen 1) But, Plath goes further she makes her title character into a Jew and the Docktor into a Nazi. She brings forth the image of the ovens in the concentration camp; the Docktor can turn her over in the oven until there is nothing left. Afterwards, he will humiliate her further by making soap out of her ashes and melting down her gold fillings and wedding ring, just as the nazi's did in World War II. (Curley, Maureen 2)Failing at her art and at manipulating the Docktor she vows revenge against her enemies.(Salem Press 1) She charges the crowd that watches her being resurrection and plans in her next rebirth to rise in the air like a phoenix and "Eat men like air."(Plath, Sylvia 2) However, it can be argued that the revenge and immortality that Lady Lazarus promises is all talk, with no action forthcoming. Plath doesn't personalize the threat that Lazarus makes. The speaker uses the generalized "men" instead of making a direct threat to Herr Docktor, or even the crowd that looks upon her as a miracle of modern medicine. In the face of her enemy's power, she refuses to confront him. Had she personalized the last line by specifically naming who would receive her vengeance she could have redeemed herself and because she doesn't it weakens her threat and resigns her to defeat. This makes her life even less worth living, she can't even succeed at death, a mean entity imposes his will upon her and there is nothing that she can do about it. (Dahlke, Laura Johnson 1)In "Tulips" the speaker is in a hospital recovering from surgery. The speaker is tryin to lose herself in the numbness of her condition and the whiteness of the room. "It is winter here" (Plath, Sylvia 3) which elludes to the metaphor that in winter things die. The speaker is at peace with this; she doesn't want her life in the outside world...

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