Poets such as Sylvia Plath and Carol Ann Duffy invite their readers into imaginary worlds full of mystery and hideousness in order to facilitate a greater understanding of the human condition. Plath’s 1962 poem, “Lady Lazarus” focuses on the persona’s internal struggle, which is highlighted by the themes of suffering and death. Similarly Duffy’s 1999 poem “Medusa” also explores suffering, to express the pain and anguish suffered in the persona’s life. Sylvia Plath had suffered immensely in her lifetime, experiencing both physical and emotional trauma. She compares herself to “Lazarus” stating that she will defeat death. Like “Lady Lazarus”, “Medusa” had suffered as a result of her jealous love, but her suffering and death is a more violent one. Both poems deal with the ugly aspects of humanity and reveal the complexities that may arise, when attempting to understand the human condition.
Paragraph 1 (Lady Lazarus): Suffering
Sylvia Plath is a complex writer with a complex mind, who draws upon her own experiences to explore the destructive nature of the human condition. The theme of suffering was a central element in Plath’s life, firstly through the oppression of her father and secondly, by the betrayal of her husband. Consequently, Plath sees herself as Lady Lazarus, a person who has suffered much but been given a new chance at life. Path uses the extended metaphor of the Holocaust throughout the poem, likening herself to Jewish victims who have been brutalised by the Nazis, “A sort of walking miracle, my skin/Bright as a Nazi lampshade.” Here, she uses simile and historical allusions to reference the torture techniques used by the Nazis. Much like the Jews, she feels that her life has been nothing but suffering and torment. Furthermore, Plath references the suffering of herself and the Jewish people through the quote, “My face a featureless fine/Jew linen.” The use of alliteration and enjambment coupled with the metaphor suggests that Lady Lazarus and by extension, Plath herself feels as though she is a possession, easily destroyed by those in power such as her father. Finally Plath’s suffering is typified as she imagines herself that she has been burnt to death in a concentration camp, “Ash, ash –/you poke and stir./Flesh, bone, there is nothing there.” Alliteration and symbolism are used to represent the fact that Plath feels as though her identity has been stripped from her and as a result, she is a shell of her former self. Through her vivid interpretation of depression and suffering readers of Plath’s poetry are given a keen insight into the darker side of the human condition.
Paragraph 2 (Medusa): Suffering
Similar to Plath’s poem, Duffy’s “Medusa” explores how suffering can have a detrimental impact on an individual’s life. However unlike Plath, Medusa explores how jealousy can act as a catalyst for suffering. The use of enjambment, “A suspicion, a doubt, a jealousy/grew in my mind,” emphasises how over...