Death is a common theme in literature and each writer has his/her own specific approach to the subject; approaches range from the very mundane to the more complex, as in the works of Christina Georgina Rossetti and Edgar Allan Poe. To note, however, is the unorthodox approach of the poetess Sylvia Plath when writing about death. When one reads the work of Sylvia Plath, one thing is immediately apparent; that she employs a two-pronged approach when writing about the subject.This two-pronged approach could very well be described as the use of death as a main platform in her poetry and the use of death as a simple detail in her work. This basically means that the poetess assumes multi-levels in her writing which allows a more liberal means of reading and interpreting her work.
Death as a concept is both abstract and concrete; hence, taking it up in any form of literature risks ambiguity; however, with the work of Plath, death is treated in a way that the ambiguity is remedied by the general tone of the poem as well as the finer details that are found in the poem itself.A good example of this would be her poem, ‘Aftermath’ (Plath) which is about how people react indifferently to a fire tragedy. The entire poem illustrates the death of integrity for the observers of the aftermaths of this tragedy as would be noticed in the lines, “They loiter and stare…/as if they thought/Some scandal might any minute ooze/From a smoke-choked closet…”, (Plath) “No deaths, no prodigious injuries/Glut these hunters…”, (Plath) and “The crowd sucks her last tear and turns away.” (Plath). These lines illustrate the inappropriate behavior of people watching a victim of a fire tragedy – instead of offering assistance or sympathizing with the victim, they make a show out of the tragedy, instead. Now, to illustrate (your family name) 3 how this particular poem is two-pronged, we would notice certain details – ‘Mother Medea’, ‘green smock’ and ‘pyre’ , details that all speak of death.
Despite ‘Mother Medea’ referring tothe victim of the fire in the general tone of the poem, this particular detail may also be interpreted to refer to ‘Medea’, a follower of Hecate, the goddess of black magic and the mistress of Death. On a different level, however, ‘Mother Medea’ is also used to illustrate the sorrow of the woman who was the victim of the tragedy. Furthermore, mention of the ‘green smock’ can very easily mean sickness and death as is represented by the green horse in the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.Finally, the ‘pyre’ which refers to the burnt remains of the abode in the general tone of the poem, could very well be interpreted as the ‘pyre’ that is used to burn corpses in ancient times. This duality of feature in Plath’s poems gives her work a certain degree of consistency; hence, a more water-tight representation of death, compared to other works that treat the subject as just that, a subject. Plath’s work illustrates how death is not just the subject of a poem, but a feature or a detail that gives plurality to the concept.An initial reading of the work would immediately give the reader an accurate impression, and on second, critical reading, the reason for this would be more conspicuous – the unity of function of the various details that result to the accurate conveyance of the general tone. This treatment of death, referring not only to physical death is further seen in her other poems like ‘Morning Song” which, despite its being about motherhood, also illustrates how restful sleep for a mother dies along with the birth of a child; “All night your moth-breath/Flickers among the flat pink roses.
I wake to listen,” (Plath) and “One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral/In my Victorian nightgown. /Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. /The window square/Whitens and swallows its dull stars. ” (Plath) Now, notice how the details in this (your family name) 4 poem again refer to of death – “Victorian” gives a gothic feel to the poem, and ‘effacement at the wind’s hand’ can very easily refer to the vanishing or the death of an established concept.This style in writing recurs in her work like in “Edge” which is a poem that talks about a woman who dies with her children because of starvation – “We have come so far, it is over.
/Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,/One at each little/Pitcher of milk, now empty. ” (Plath) ; again notice the details that very well refer to death – “garden stiffens”, “odors bleed”, and “perfected” all work to amplify the concept of death in the poem. Another example of this is “Childless Woman” which talks about the ‘death of the hope for motherhood’. These approaches are very common in most of Plath’s work.
Plath’s love affair with death goes beyond what most writers would make of the subject. Very often, words are the medium in literature, and the poet takes these words and adds the subject to catalyze emotion. This may work the other way around as well, beginning with the subject, and then working with the words. Apparently, Plath is able to do both in one fluid motion, because death, as her subject swallows each of her poems, and the words work to chew on the entire poem – read the other way, the basic words are like pins and needles that contribute to the general tone of the poem and amplify the subject more.Plath is able to illustrate synergy in her work – synergy between the words and the subject, and vice-versa – perfect specificity, unity of thought, and organic unity. (your family name)WORKS CITEDPlath, Sylvia . “The Poetry of Sylvia Plath” Stanford University.
2006. Stanford University. 6 Mar. 2009 ;http://www. stanford.