Sylvia Plate draws upon her personal experiences to blend a range of powerful emotions, weaving them cleverly throughout her poems. ‘Lady Lazarus’ and ‘Daddy’ explore her intimate struggles and how the abandonment and betrayal of masculine figures in her life shaped her views on life and death. Her carefully selected language is crucial in exhibiting her feelings about the oppression of herself as a woman and her demand of dominance over the men around her. The protagonist of ‘Lady Lazarus’ Is an allegory of Sylvia Plate herself, the suicide attempts in the poem being a reflection of the poet’s own suicidal tendencies.
The title itself is a reference to Lazarus of Betray from the Gospel of John, which suggests a similarity between the narrator’s resuscitation by ‘Herr Doctor’ and the resurrection of Lazarus by Jesus; revived without apparent consent. This comparison to God Is repeated in her use of ‘Herr Doctor’, ‘Herr Enemy and ‘Herr God/Herr Lucifer’ linking all these figures as equals, merging their motives and Insinuating their connection as one force of evil in the form of men. This sets up a disparity between males and females.
The fight for feminine control is presented powerfully within this same section of the poem, as the narrator claims she WI eat men like air. The use of the word ‘air’ is effective as it is pronounced very similarly to ‘Herr’, German for Mister, used several lines earlier. This suggests that she can and will devour the masculine title of these male figures and with It any dominance of which they hold above her. The use of German words also links in with her allusions to the Holocaust, relevant to ere childhood, set in the midst of World War II.
Themes Of Sylvia Plath Poetry
Plate declares her ‘skin/Bright as a Nazi lampshade’ and her face a featureless, flee/Jew linen’. This links the subject of the poem to the situation of the Jewish people and implies the oppression and possession of herself in relation to those around her. This repression of which Plate felt In her personal life forms a motive for the several suicide attempts presented In the poem. The use of anaphora, the reiterating of phrases such as ‘l do it so it feels like hell/l do t so it feels real’, is reminiscent of her recurrent near death experiences.
She states that ‘Dying/ Is an art, like everything else’, which signifies that she is performing for the people around her. They bring her back only to speculate her struggles, giving ‘Herr Doctor’ and ‘The peanut-crunching crowd’ dominance over her. The repetition of words, however, stresses the importance of her message to the audience and announces that her conviction is growing constantly stronger; she will not yield to those who haul her from her freedom; the freedom of death.
The repetition of ‘me’ and ‘my emphasizes the protagonist’s independence. These words draw away from the masculine concepts of which she is expressing and remind the reader that the poem Is about her control and Is a statement that men shall not overshadow her Plash’s references to the holocaust throughout ‘Daddy resonate strongly with accounts of her strict upbringing by her authoritarian father. The poem addresses the concern of male dominance, forming a link to many of her other poems.
Like in ‘Lady Lazarus’, ‘Daddy floods the male figureheads from Plash’s life with an unflattering light, and again, provides a metaphor between herself and the Jews of the Holocaust. German words are used to strengthen the metaphor linking her father to the ‘Luftwaffe’, the ‘Mainframe and the ‘swastika’, making him represent the Nazi’s in her image. The poem establishes communication as one of it’s main concerns.
Although written in English, it is sprinkled with the German words that sometimes mimic her father; ‘ICC, ICC, ICC, ICC’, sometimes address him; ‘Ach du’, and sometimes describe him; With a Mainframe look. It says that he spoke ‘gobbledygook’ insinuating that she could not understand him, a lack of communication between father and daughter. Plate then writes; ‘l began to talk like a Jew/’ think I may well be a Jew, supporting further the metaphor in which her form is in complete contrast to that of her father.
She also establishes that she ‘never could talk’ as she claims the tongue stuck in my jaw/ It stuck in a barb wire’ which is reminiscent of being stuck within the fences off concentration camp in which she is confined. The narrator states in the third last stanza that ‘The black telephone’s off at the root’, this time suggesting a more permanent loss of contact of which she herself is the designer, as she finally realizes her wish to cut the link between herself and ‘a man in black.
The color black is used many times throughout the poem to describe the father. ‘The black man’ with his fat black heart’ who does ‘stand at the blackboard’ while he confines his only daughter within a ‘black shoe’ of which she must obey him, ‘barely daring to breathe’. Black is he color of death and oppression, and expresses her lust to ‘kill’ him through the murky dark pool in which she is drowning in her attempts to obey him.
It’s a stark contrast to the ‘poor and white’ girl with the ‘pretty red heart’, white being the color of innocence and purity while red represents the devotion she still feels for her father despite the resentment she has for his controlling nature. Blue is also used to represent the freakish Atlantic/ Where it pours bean green over blue/in the waters off beautiful Nausea’ which links with her father’s ‘Aryan eye, bright blue’, presenting a beauty and fascination but also a coldness and feeling of detachment, again a reference to his Nazi-likeness.
Despite being free verse with no specific rhyming pattern, the poem contains a constant repetition of the ’00’ sound that conveys the woman’s frustration and consistently throughout, the you’ being directed at ‘daddy in an accusing and frustrated tone of the poem. In essence, Plate is recalling how her own father, emotionally repressed himself, passed on his traits to his daughter along with inflicting his arrogant nature and his digressiveness of women upon her.