The Struggle in Lady Lazarus
Lady Lazarus repeats the struggle between Nazi and Jew which is used in Daddy, with the Nazi atrocities a background across which the amazing, self-renewing speaker strides. The speaker orchestrates every aspect of her show, attempting to undermine the power an audience would normally have over her. She controls her body, instead of being a passive object of other eyes.
The speaker orders her enemy to Peel off the napkin, telling the audience that there is a charge for her performance, but death to her is nothing but a big strip tease. Do I terrify? she asks rhetorically, she knows her effect on them. Lady Lazarus intentionally contributes to the spectacle that fetishises her; she compartmentalises herself, These are my hands, / My knees, harshly mocking the gentlemen and ladies as she reveals their morbid avidity. She is both pitying and scornful: Do not think I underestimate your great concern. Her disenfleshment at the hands of the enemy, viewed avidly by the peanut-crunching crowd, is something that she wills, just as she wills her own renewal. It is her comeback, both a reappearance in life and a snappy retort to her ghoulish audience. No longer needing approval, she provides the answers. Her performance is self-sufficient, she does not need their applause.
A propulsive quality in the poem is contributed by the assonances (all, call, well, hell, real, call, cell, theatrical) and the tercets, their succinctness adding to an inevitable motion towards the end. The repetitions also give her speech an incantatory quality. Lady Lazarus, as she remembers her first death, is given a choice between life and death, between the living, who had to call and call, and deaths vocation, I guess you could say Ive a call. The latter call to dying compels her in a way the other does not. The process of renewal is exhilirating, a childish, triumphant shriek accompanies it as she immolates herself. She rises out of the ashes, rejoicing in the power that she has over mere mortal men: I eat men like air.