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Analysis of ”Lady Lazarus” by Sylvia Plath

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In the Poem “Lady Lazarus”, poet Sylvia Plath uses allusions, symbolism, and irony to convey to the audience the theme “Oppression leads to an eventual rebellion.” The poems shows Plath’s own suicide attempt and tells us little of the actual event. Plath’s suicide and depression dealt with multiple factors such as the death of her father, her struggle for her power as a woman in her society, several publishers’ lack of interest in her early poetry, and the affair by her husband Ted Hughes. Plath’s poetry struggled to become published because she lived in the Patriarchal period where women were rarely known for many accomplishments. Another reason is because critics said that some if not all of her poetry dealt with death and suicide. The title “Lady Lazarus” is an allusion to the bible; it refers to the biblical character Lazarus, a man whom Jesus resurrected from the dead. Lady Lazarus which is without a doubt referring to Plath herself, as this is an example of confessional poetry; the “Lazarus” being an allusion to the biblical figure is an accurate indicator of the content of the poem. “Lady Lazarus” is refers to Plath’s third attempt at suicide, and her succeeding ‘resurrection’.

Plath also makes reference to Lazarus in line 17 “The grave cave ate will be”, referring to a grave cave that was similar to the tomb in which Lazarus was buried in and resurrected from. Another allusion Plath uses refers to the life of the of a Jew in a Nazi concentration camp with a simile and metaphor in lines 5-9 “Bright as a Nazi lampshade, My right foot A paperweight, My face a featureless, fine Jew linen.”, which is an example of how Nazis created lampshades from the skin of a Jew. To further the allusion to the life of a Jew lines 76-78 “A cake of soap, a wedding ring, a gold filling.” are used to make reference to the bar of soap could relate back to when Nazi’s soap was said to be made out of the burnt victims from the Jewish holocaust. The wedding ring could just be again emphasizing the fact that the she feels oppresses by males, her husband in particular. The gold filling is again relating back to the holocaust, when the fillings were often the only things left after the cremation of Jews. Line 65 “So, so Herr Doktor. / So, Herr Enemy.” she spits as though she attempted to prove herself.

The German pronoun “Herr” is revealing the Nazi force so it connotes a kind of oppressive power. That is, the doctor, who helps her to pull through, is her enemy since he confines her to the cruel atmosphere of this world when she is about to flee from it. In their opinion, they lend a helping hand to her because she is “their opus, their valuable, the pure gold baby,” however they continually ignore the fact that she “melts to a shriek.” Ironically she says; “Do not think I underestimate your great concern.” It’s a sign of her vengeance she swore to take on “her dears.” In ‘Lady Lazarus’ the Plath compares her suffering with the experiences of the tortured Jews, she becomes, as a result of the suicide she causes on herself, a Jew. One of the most important symbols that Plath alludes to the audience is the Phoenix.

The Phoenix described in lines 82-85 “Out of the ash I rise with my red hair And I eat men like air.” Phoenix in classical mythology is a unique bird, resembling an eagle but with rich red and gold plumage, burning itself on a funeral pyre ignited by the sun and fanned by its own wings, and rising from the ashes with renewed youth to live through another cycle. Thus, the Phoenix is a well-known symbol for rebirth, renewal and immortality. After a very disturbed and volatile life during which she attempted suicide many times only to be rescued at the nick of the moment, Sylvia Plath finally succeeded in killing herself on February 10, 1963. Her failed attempts at committing suicide can perhaps be compared to the repeated rebirth of the Phoenix. She remarks on the regular pattern of her failed suicide attempts. Line 43-45 ”Dying Is an art, like everything else. I do it exceptionally well.”

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