The Theme Of Death In Poetry By Emily Dickinson And Sylvia Plath

1319 words - 5 pages

Death is a prevalent theme in the poetry of both Sylvia Plath and Emily Dickinson. They both examine death from varied angles. There are many similarities as well as differences in the representation of this theme in their poetry. Plath views death as a sinister and intimidating end, while Dickinson depicts death with the endearment of romantic attraction. In the poetry of Plath death is depicted traditionally, while Dickinson attributes some mysticism to the end of life.

In the poem "Two Views of a Cadaver Room" Plath attempts to be objective in writing about death from the third person point of view. The poem is divided into two verses: the first verse depicts four men examining human corpses, the second verse speaks about lovers who are not aware of the horrors of death. Using such format of talking about death, Plath created an alarming comparison. The first verse adopts the "attitude of reality compared to the ignorance in the second verse" ("only are blind to the carrion army"). Plath used the same technique in the poem "I Am Vertical" in which two verses both contrast and compliment each other.

For Dickinson, on the contrary, death is not something unreal. As the author has written "Because I could not stop for Death, he kindly stopped for me..." After reading these two lines the reader "imagines the picture of Death being a human which joins the author during the ride" . Dickinson tries to portray the characteristics of death in the poem. Stating that there is eternity after death, the author alludes both the possibility of the life after death and absolute zero-ness of it. Unlike Plath, Dickinson not only talks about the notion of death, but personalizes it. The reader feels that the author in fact desires to reach the "state that is beyond time, beyond sense, beyond being and beyond experience" . However, the author regrets for not being able to reach such condition being alive.

Dickinson admires death as a perfect state of calmness of the mind while Plath use imagery to represent the horrific nature of death as a force which destroys the mind and life in the body. Plath believes that death leads to absence of emotions. Death takes away emotions and feelings, therefore it is "the process of dehumanization", as Plath has written "he hands her the cut-out heart like a cracked heirloom." Heirlooms are objects which embody the memory just like heart does which is the symbol of the person's identity. Death kills this identity.

Death is self-destruction of the individual which should not be admired according to the poetry of Plath. Death means pain and suffering. The author also talks about individuals who chose the death themselves. It is especially evident in the poems "Edge" and "I Am Vertical": "her bare feet seem to be saying; we have come so far" ("Edge"). The bare feet are the symbol of the author's vulnerability which is the result of the lack of protection by society. The depiction of death...

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