How Lady Lazarus Understands Suicide as Depicted in the Poem

June 7, 2021 by Essay Writer

The general understanding of Lady Lazarus is that it informs about suicide. A woman is the narrator who is addressing no one in particular. The poem is intricate, murky and fierce. Its tome is ominous and sarcastic. The title alludes to Lazarus of the Bible who Jesus brought back from the dead. The narrator attempts to commit suicide three times, each in a decade. She has done it again for the third time, one time being by accident and the other time being intentional. Her recovery from that third attempt is painted as a letdown while her attempted suicides are shown as achievements. Dying is artful and she is very good at it. Since death is depicted as an art, there are audiences to death and resurrection. She terminates her life as a form of punishment to the audience who drives her to do it. The zealous crowd gets an invitation but also get condemned for its morbid compulsion. The reader can be said to be part of the crowd. This is because he reads the poem to see her darkness. She makes a postulation that her onlookers are invested to an extent that they would part with large amounts of money to peek into her heart and scars.

She filters through the crowd’s compulsion with severe criticism by comparing it with the unworried Germans who did nothing while the Jews were executed. Ultimately, it is apparent that the crowd is a burden and not an encourager as they are also present at her resurrection. She dislikes resurrection and the fact that people are present. Feminism views the poem as a depiction of the struggles of women in a largely patriarchal society. The formation of a male artist god by a woman proclaims the autonomous power of women. The poem denotes how male power tries to suppress female power but in the end, through her rebirth, is defeated. She knows that as soon as she resurrects, a man is going to claim her ownership. The society also views her as an object rather than a person. Therefore, suicide becomes a way of attaining autonomy.

Women’s power

Plath portrays women as people who want to be self-determined by the show of Lady Lazarus’ resolve to die. This portrayal leads her to discuss real-world situations just like the suicide attempts she unearths. The death imagery portrays the historical evils of the society that the women want to be rid of. The fortitude and resilience that Lady Lazarus has display women in a positive light. They show that women have power. Plath takes the negative societal stereotype associated with women who are bold and want to be independent and spins it to the positive image of women who voice their opinions and know what they want. It depicts women as very powerful. To put forward the power of women, Plath makes use of ideas that are considered weak due to their association with an evil that is, suicide. Women have the power to turn a disadvantage into an advantage. For instance, the use of tarot cards instead of big guns shows that women are able to fight with the most limiting of objects.

The narrator of Lady Lazarus is a woman and that interprets to literary power. The narration shows the artistic nature of women even without the men. Her creativity is able to draw the attention of listeners who stay throughout her death and her resurrection. Lady Lazarus is a feminist showing the oppression that women face and men gladly take part. The poem also generally shows that women are walking miracle.

The brutal deaths that Lady Lazarus undergoes show her ability to survive. She lets go of her past which she does not talk about as she only talks about who she is currently, ash, flesh, bone. Her indifference when it comes to death is indicative of how she resents the society that pushes her to her death. Through death, she defeats it and wins. She becomes an independent person. Lady Lazarus’ proclamation of her having nine lives shows resilience. No matter how much the society puts her down, she comes back up. She also defies societal norms that women are weak by that action of dying severally. She is determined to be free from the shackles of the negative connotation of women. By dying, she defeats men and society. She would rather die than submit. The fact that Lady Lazarus brings herself back to life shows the power she has. She was not brought back by anyone, just her. It tells us of the power that a woman possesses to reinvent herself.

Men’s power

Lady Lazarus refers to a man as Herr Enemy, Herr Doktor, Herr Lucifer and Herr God. This depiction serves to bring out the appalling environment which is patriarchy. Women are victims of patriarchy which is repressive and compares with the harsh conditions of the concentration camps where the Nazis threw the Jews. Men are presented as evil. However, Lady Lazarus cannot completely get rid of Herr Enemy because he needs him as a witness of her reincarnation in the future. Also, she threatens him to beware, hence, taking the path of the disobeyed futurist at the end. The warning asks the man to know that the woman can switch positions with him and he will become the oppressed.

Men are the oppressors. The reference of the Holocaust in the poem places Lady Lazarus as a victim, a victim of men’s oppression. The men are so oppressive that their victims have become used to the oppression, to death. The men possess power over women. Lady Plath resents both God and Satan. They are her enemies. The doctor plays the role of a god, a good person who tries to help but below the face value lies a devil. In the final stanza, Lady Lazarus states that she eats men like air and that they are nothing. They do not threaten her anymore. The power that men have can come to an end and women can take over. However, the last stanza shows that women can destroy men as the men do women. It should not be the case since that is just the same thing happening, just to a different group of people now. The men evoke feelings of bitterness from the women who suffer from their oppression.

When Lady Lazarus dies, she is aware that the doctor will demand her body. Men are depicted as claiming possession of a woman. Even though a woman is a different and independent being, she is seen as belonging to a man who does not hesitate to reinforce that by claiming her. Lady Lazarus dies to escape from situations such as these. She wants independence. She wants to be her own. That is why she gladly kills herself. When she comes back to life, she sees her resurrection as a failed attempt at finding peace. She not only wants to escape the claws of men but also the society.

Society’s power

The society depicts women as weak and stereotypes the audacious ones as evil. The society looks by as men oppress women. It is entertained by it. Lady Lazarus is resentful towards the society which she describes as complacent. The society despite possessing the power to right wrongs stands by. In fact, the society pushes her to her deaths. The society is rotten and Lady Lazarus wants to defy it. That is why she kills herself as an act of punishment for it. She kills herself to escape the society which views her as an object and not as a human. This is depicted by the way she refers to herself as parts, away from her body as a whole that is, skin and bones.

The society is patriarchal and consists of people who put an act of kindness but really, are evil inside. “Beware” is a warning to them. There were people who were convinced that Hitler was a good person, that the Nazi were good people acting in the interest of Germany. However, Plath exposes that they Nazis were very evil. It was an organization built on lies. The warning that Lady Lazarus gives demonstrates her power. It asserts that in the end, evil will be defeated. The doctor pokes her to find what remains of her that he can profit from that is, make further advancements in psychological treatment but this act only hurts Lady Lazarus. The society does not take into account that it hurts somebody. It will just take and take from one until that person is destroyed. She turns and burns. That stanza shows the powerlessness that the society puts her though and she has no way out. The society has the quality of rendering victims of situations powerless.

Lady Lazarus mentions feeling like Opus, a musical artwork that the onlookers are getting entertained by. She has the value of pure gold. Here, the society clearly enjoys finding the best of the best for its amusement. Plath could have used that stanza to also show that women deserve happiness but the society is hell-bent on gaining entertainment from their misery. They are victimized by the society which tries to fix them. However, the women remain the same. The society can try to fix them but nothing is changed.

The society stigmatizes, criticizes and misunderstands women. In contrast, it does everything to the benefit of men. Therefore, there is a power imbalance where men tower over women. The power imbalance makes a woman feel helpless, worthless even though she knows she is worthy, and completely dominated by men. It is the evils of the society that drives that little controlling voice in Lady Lazarus’ head, urging her to commit suicide. It takes control of her thoughts and makes her drawn towards death. She fails at dying each time because people try to resuscitate her. It is not for them but rather so that they can keep the show going and keep entertaining themselves. The society loves her as a theatrical exhibition. This also shows the lack of independence of a woman that the society causes. She cannot even die in peace.

Read more