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Motifs of Sylvia Plath

Motifs of Sylvia Plath

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Published by Pąpą Ki Rąni

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Published by: Pąpą Ki Rąni on May 10, 2012
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Sylvia Plath was the Depression personified as she had to battle with it throughout her life. It was the battle of selfdestruction or self-recognition or some obscure fusion of the both. She suffered incessantly neurotic fits engrained in her childhood. She was obsessed with fears and haunted with fancies. However, she could not escape the hidden workshop in her and she vented her feelings in the most powerful and unique way. She crafted her self in the mint of her over-charged brain and issued acutely subjective poems which mark the features of their own. She loved her father Otto Plath very much. He died on the night of November 5, 1940, and when the eight-yearold Sylvia was informed of her father's death, she proclaimed "I'll never speak to God again." Sylvia was still confused and angry about her father's death -- she sometimes felt that, in a way, he had committed suicide because he could have prevented it. Her strong and conflicting emotions of love, hate, anger and grief at the loss of her father were to affect Sylvia for the rest of her life. One day when her mother noticed healing scars on her legs, Sylvia said she just "wanted to see if I had the guts" and admitted that "I want to die!” In this way, death and death-wish became the main features of her poetry. She uses dark images of death to

vent her suicidal wishes. She knows she will die otherwise. In her poem ‘Poppies in October’, she presents a pregnant woman in ambulance. Her red heart is beating fast. Then there is carbon monoxide, a fatal gas. She finds herself in the forest of frost. It is worthwhile to note that she tried to commit suicide when she was nineteen year old; she took 40 sleeping pills and tried to kill herself. She survived but after parting with Ted Hughes, she killed herself with gas. She was haunted by death and obsessed with fear. She tried to seek relief in sex and sensibility and partly she remained successful. She wrote some excellent poems, packed with powerful imagery. ‘The Arrival of the Bee Box’ implies death as she considers the bee box The coffin of a midget or a square baby. She peeps into the box and it is dark, dark. It is full of black bees. They are the image of her dark ideas of death. Black on black, angrily clambering. She hears unintelligible syllables, the furious Latin, the whispers of dreadful echoes of death. However, she fears that she could not detain her thoughts any longer. One day she will have to let them loose. Then in ‘The Bee Meeting’, she vents her fear of death in the most extraordinary way. She sees some villagers. Among them, there is a sexton who implies death. She finds herself defenseless against them. She is dressed a white frock

from neck to knees. It may be her shroud. She is afraid but she is against knight at arms and does not want to show cowardice. She says, They will not smell my fears, my fears, my fears. She is taken through bean fields where creamy bean flowers stare at her with black eyes and their hearts are like blood colt. She smells sick hawthorn. She feels that she is undergoing some operation. She is the old queen who is to be killed by the new one. But she does not want to die, she queen is very clever, Sealing off her brood cells, her honey, and quietly humming. But at the same time she is aware the she is very ole and a new queen, Assia Wevil, is likely to replace her. She is exhausted and cold. The January weather was horrible in London, and it only added to Plath's worsening depression, as her friends and physician witnessed. In the early morning of February 11, 1963, however, Plath set some bread and milk in the children's room then cracked their window and sealed their door off with tape. She went downstairs and, after sealing herself in the kitchen, knelt in front of the open oven and turned the gas on. Her body was discovered that morning by a nurse scheduled to visit and the construction worker who helped the nurse get into the house.

Beside death, feminism is a vital motif of her poetry. She knew that women are to suffer in this male dominating world. It is the world created by men. She sees man as having ultimate culpability for this state of affairs which affects women. The have transformed women into a puppet, something which reflects his desire as well as disgust. She suffers a sense of entrapment. Her choices are limited. She feels that women are in a comfortable concentration camp where they are physically luxurious and mentally oppressed. She employs images of Nazism like Fire and bombs through the roof And in the world of women, the moon is also merciless. ‘Ariel’ is a standing example of feminism. It describes physical and psychological pains and pangs of a woman form sexual intercourse to pregnancy and child birth. She employs many sex images like ‘God’s lioness’, combining male and female. It is a journey on a fast running horse while the rider has lost control. It is a journey through darkness. She feels the gorwth of her baby in her womb How one we grow Pivot of heels and knees. And then there is Lady Godiva, the naked rider. It is Plath’s aggressive nature against the opposite sex. She has been haunted by Electra complex. She has been trying to find the alternative of her father. The words, unpeel, foam, child’s cry are images of child birth. These are powerful traces of feminism in the form of word pictures. In the end, she feels like an arrow shot from a bow ‘into the red’. It is a suicidal experience. ‘Morning

Song’ describes the feelings of a mother after the birth of her baby. She talks to him using different images. He is like a gold watch, new statue and the cloud. Her parents are ‘blanky like walls’. This poem is feminism first to last. The midwife slapping the foot of newly born baby, then she feels her breast heavy with milk and she feeds him. ‘You Are’ is also an expression of a mother’s love for her child. She seems to be in a happy mood. She uses images of feminism like ‘mute as turnip’, showing her pregnancy. Then the child is vague as fog, condition before the birth and in the end, a well-done sum. Sylvia Plath can speak on such issues very boldly rather aggressively. Her poetry is highly subjective. She expresses her feelings in a vigorous manner. She has been a split personality; therefore, she seeks herself among contrasting images. There is morning sun, cloud, pregnant woman in the ambulance, love gift, deadly gas, dull behaviour, forest of frost and she cries out, O my God, what am I. The personality of Sylvia was obsessive one. She could not incorporate with the world around her. She tried to achieve whatever she was could derive in that moment of obsession and her poetry is the ultimate outcome. She did not opt for anything minor. When she felt she could not, she preferred to exit.

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