“Spinster” by Sylvia Plath is a poem that consists of a persona, who in other words serves as a “second self” for the author and conveys her innermost feelings. The poem was written in 1956, the same year as Plath’s marriage to Ted Hughes, who was also a poet. The title suggests that the persona is one who is not fond of marriage and the normal rituals of courtship as a spinster is an unmarried woman, typically an older woman who is beyond the usual age of marriage and may never marry. The persona of the poem is a woman who dislikes disorder and chaos and finds relationships to be as unpredictable as the season of spring, in which there is no sense of uniformity. In this poem, Plath not only uses a persona to disclose her feelings, but also juxtaposes the seasons and their order (or lack thereof) and relates them to the order that comes with solitude and the disorder that is attributed with relationships. She accomplishes this through her use of formal diction, which ties into both the meticulous structure and develops the visual imagery.
Foremost, in the first stanza, Plath gives the visual imagery of a woman taking a walk in the midst of spring with her lover. What ordinarily would be a pleasant image, is depicted as very formal and dull as the walk is “ceremonious” and the male companion is not a romantic lover, but is rather just one of the woman’s suitors (line 2). By using such words as “ceremonious” and “suitor” to explain what may seem as an enjoyable experience on the surface, the woman implies that she is indifferent towards the man and just walks with him to keep up appearances or in other words to do what is customary with the norms of courtship. The woman also reveals a considerable amount of displeasure “...by the birds irregular babel and the leaves’ litter” (5-6). Her irritation with spring and its changing nature suggests that she dislikes anything that is not constant and outside her comfort zone.
Next, the woman takes on the role of a casual bystander as she does not engage with her lover and remains disinterested with both him and the nature that surrounds her. She observes, “…her lover’s gestures unbalance the air, his gait stray uneven through a rank wilderness of fern and flower” (9-10). The image as supplied by the persona is that everything around her is in disarray. Her lover’s stride disturbs the air and the flowers, ferns, and leaves are strewn everywhere that they walk. Nothing is tidy and by using the term “wilderness” to describe nature, Plath emphasizes the woman’s distaste for nature due to its variation and unpredictability. She adds, “…the whole season, sloven”, which reveals her repugnant feelings toward spring (12). This stanza specifically is characterized by nature-based depictions and how the speaker as well as the poet regard spring as being messy like serious relationships with men.
The succeeding stanza takes on a different tone as the persona exhibits a slight change in emotion as...