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Lady Lazarus Commentary

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    Daniella de los Reyes English 10/16/09 Word Count: 1273 How far will one let their obsessions, weaknesses and feelings get the best of them? This is the key question to Sylvia Plath’s poem, Lady Lazarus. While the poem works as an extended metaphor of Plath’s psychosocial journey from the age of ten onwards, as she writes about her near death experiences every decade; Plath implies how those oppressed and persecuted like herself eventually rebel or lose their dignity and sense of self.

    It is through Plath’s use of metaphors, symbolic colors, and tone does one experience the personal pain and corporate suffering the author was afflicted by throughout her life. Plath’s use of metaphors conveys the historical and private movement within herself and the poem as she makes references to the Holocaust, her “resurrection” as a sort of magic show and herself as a phoenix. Throughout the poem Plath constantly returns to the idea of the Holocaust creating parallels between her inner conflict and that between the Jews and Nazis.

    In stanza two she uses the image of a “bright as a Nazi lampshade” (5) to describe her skin which she points out to be the tyrant within her and her face as a “featureless, fine Jew linen” (8) which is slowly deteriorating. The constant struggle between the weak versus the strong illustrates the life long battle occurring within Plath, in which the tyrant within her, forces her will to commit suicide and like the Jews she is withering under the will power.

    In stanza nine the author introduces the idea of her resurrection as the poet who reveals her suffering plays to an audience, or “peanut-crunching crowd” (26) who shove in to see her as she is “unwrapped” (28) by the crowd like a “big strip tease” in which the author though may be still fully dressed, feels emotionally naked and exposed. That represents herself to be crucified before the gaze of the vulgar mass. Later in stanzas twenty and twenty-one the writer reintroduces the idea of her “resurrection” as a sort of show to the audience in which they are left in awe when she suddenly rises from the dead.

    At the end of poem the speaker points herself out as a phoenix, a mythical bird that has the power to resurrect itself after it dies and is reborn from ash. She makes references to such an act when she reduces herself to nothing but “ash, ash—“ (73) in stanza twenty-four and later is resurrected and rises “out of the ash…with my red hair” in stanza twenty seven. The speakers references to her resurrection is a direct or actually subtle poke at the phoenix and in stanza 15, Plath says, “I do it exceptionally well” (45), just like the phoenix, she is almost pro at it.

    The speaker’s use of metaphors illustrates ‘Lady Lazarus’ as a woman is constantly caught up in her anger and carried by it toward a recognition of its true object: not the crowd of insensitive onlookers, but the father and husband who has driven her to attempt suicide. The end of the poem, thus understood, breaks free of defensive irony to release cathartic rage. The speaker uses a lot of symbolic colors to emphasize and make references to her feelings towards herself and those of others.

    The most reoccurring colors within the poem are red, symbolizing blood (life), anger and revenge while gold symbolizes wealth, status and power. Her reference to the color red first appears first in stanza twenty one where the speaker depicts herself as Jesus or such a personage as she puts a “large charge, for a word or a touch or a bit of blood”. (63) Plath portrays herself as a parody while the people treat her as if she were a martyr for being resurrected. The color red reappears at the end of the poem where the speaker says “I rise with my red hair and I eat men like air”. 94) Warning whoever she is speaking to whether it be her father or the doctor who constantly revive her after every suicidal attempt for their own personal benefit that she will rise again just like a Phoenix and avenge them and eat them like “air”. The reference to gold is first seen in stanza twenty where the speaker defines herself “the pure gold baby”. (69) The use of gold may be reference to her father who sees her as a valuable as gold or a doctor who sees her as an opportunity to be come famous for reviving her every time she tries to commit suicide.

    The idea of gold is seen again later on in the poem in stanza twenty five where she says after she dies she will be made to “a cake of soap, a wedding ring, a gold filling” and just like the Jews she everything she is and owns will be manufactured by her enemy, the Nazis for profit. The speaker’s tone reveals her attitude towards death, which appears to be sarcastic and jaded. Through author’s use of diction, images, sounds and repetition – her bitter tone emphasizes the speaker’s feelings towards death.

    Her use of diction throughout the poem apart from giving meaning to the poem stresses the tone. In stanza fifteen the speaker considers dying as “an art, like everything else. I do it exceptionally well. ” (45) The speaker brags that dying is her talent and goes on saying “its easy enough to do it in a cell. It’s easy enough to do it and stay put. ” The speaker opens up and tells us how she finds death such an easy task to do she can do it just by staying put. The author’s use of images implies the author’s thoughts and emotions towards death.

    In stanza thirteen the speaker talks about her second time of committing suicide where she was “meant to last it out and not come back at all” ( 34) but instead comes back “in broad day, to the same place, the same face, the same brute” the speaker shows her disappointment when she realizes that she didn’t pull through and is still alive in the world. The speaker’s use of repetition of sounds and words throughout the poem stresses the important parts, which were significant to the speaker. The author’s repetition in stanza sixteen where she says “I do it so it feels like hell, I do it so if feels real.

    I guess you could say I’ve a call”. (48) She repeats why she tries to kill herself, to emphasize her masochistic self and how death has become her new obsession. Through the author’s word choice, images and repetition of sounds and words reveals the speaker’s attitude towards death. Through the author’s use of metaphors, symbolic colors, and tone she is able to exhibit the constant battle within herself. Plath uses metaphors to describe the inner conflict in which she tries to not kill herself and at the same time to not let all her feelings be stripped clean of her in front of an audience just like Lady Lazarus.

    Her use of symbolic colors and tone display the speaker’s emotions towards her “enemies” and her emotions towards death in which she feels jaded about. Lady Lazarus was written to convey the speaker’s true emotions on death using multiple characters such as Lady Lazarus and the phoenix to send a message to those who did her wrong that no matter what, she will rise again and defeat them. The speaker conveys Lady Lazarus as a sort of puppet and her “enemies” whether it is her father, a doctor as the puppet master who at the end of the poem triumphs over them.

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    Lady Lazarus Commentary. (2018, Feb 21). Retrieved from

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