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 Lazarus' warning to both God and Lucifer establishes her religious position.
Boland presents an anorexic woman speaking about her body metaphorically and figuratively: "Flesh is heretic./My body is a witch./I am burning it" (1-2); like Lady Lazarus, this woman's self-destruction is deliberate. In renaming her starvation arson, she both echoes Plath and familiarizes the reader with the severity of her intent: her self-opinion is elusive, but clearly she despises her body: "Now the bitch is burning.//She has learned her lesson" (15, 18). Likely a nod to Plath, Boland mostly uses three-lined stanzas; her conciseness can be considered symbolic of the reductiveness of anorexia, and the woman's desire to physically reduce herself. In identifying herself, the woman declares "I am starved and curveless./I am skin and bone" (16-17). This minimalist perception of herself is nostalgic of Lady Lazarus remaining as only ashes, wedding ring, etc: both of these woman are temporally proximal to self-inflicted death. Finally, Boland includes a religious reference, like Plath, only less overtly: the rib to which the woman compares herself and "the fall" suggests Adam and Eve.
Lady Lazarus declares she has nine lives, and that she...