The Conflict of Depression and Sorrow in Lady Lazarus
Depression is an internal conflict that many souls in today’s world face that often lead to an abrupt end by suicide. Sylvia Plath was one of the many souls that were haunted by depression. When Plath was young she lost her father, which affected her throughout her life. Plath not only tried to take her life once but twice and on the third try she finally succeeds (Reiff 9). The poems that she wrote closer to her time of death were a true reflection of her feelings. Throughout her poems, the reader can feel the pain and sorrow she felt on an everyday basis. She is able to convey said feelings through the use of figurative language. In many of her poems, Plath uses figurative language such as similes, metaphors, and repetition. In the poem, ̈Lady Lazarus ̈ by Sylvia Plath, she uses figurative language and tone to convey the feelings of death, pain, and darkness.
Throughout ̈Lady Lazarus ̈, Sylvia Plath uses similes to convey the feelings of not being able to be set free. She sees herself as someone who is ready to die, but not given the chance to do so. In fact, she uses a simile in the seventh stanza comparing herself to a cat, ̈And like the cat I have nine times to die ̈(¨Lazaruss¨ 21). This line projects that no matter how many times she tries to end her life she always comes back, losing a piece of herself and feeling no emotion every time she returns(Bloom 82). The desire she has to end her life pushes her to inflict pain upon herself in any possible way she can. The reasoning behind her actions is so she no longer feels warmth, but pain that comes in hand with death and she desires to feel it, ̈I do it so it feels like hell ̈(¨Lazarus¨ 46). This line describes Plath doing actions that make her feel as if her life is no longer valuable and that she will soon be the shadow of death. Lastly, the very last line of the poem Plath tells the reader how other people will feel the pain she goes through as Lazarus, ¨And I eat men like air ̈(¨Lazarus¨ 84). By adding that last simile to the end of her poem gives the reader a call for help and someone who is an unwilling helper(Reiff 103). The similes that were used to compare things that were not welcoming, but painful and how her life was not going in the direction she wanted it to go.
To add on, symbolism is shown throughout the poem. The reader can infer this by just looking at the title and how Lazarus was resurrected by Jesus in the Bible. When she talks about rebirth and how she came back to life she wrote, ¨Them unwrap me hand and foot——¨(¨Lazarus¨ 28). This is the same thing that happened to Jesus’ friend Lazarus when he was reincarnated, he removed the trace of death and his old life from his new body(Reiff 103). In addition the when Plath wrote the line, ¨A sort of walking miracle, my skin¨(¨Lazarus¨ 4). The quote shows how Plath saw herself as not being able to die since she tells the reader that the only reason she lives is because of her skin. This relates to Lazarus because when they were both reborn, they were shocked that they were given a new chance. On the other hand, Lazarus was happy he was in heaven and had a better life, but for Plath, she was unamused and didn’t want to be alive anymore but to be left in peace. Also, Plath sees God and Lucifer as her enemy, ¨Herr God,/Herr Lucifer/Beware Beware¨(¨Lazarus¨ 79-81). Plath has hatred towards them after her third death because she was never given the option to die since she was insignificant to them(Bloom 76). Through the symbolism of the Bible, the reader is told how much pain Plath was in by not being able to die on her own accord, but instead was reborn and needing to live in a life she no longer wanted and resulted in her being numb.
To continue, an allusion is another figurative language that is used. Plath in the poem describes herself as a Jew during the Holocaust, which was the killing of Jews at the hands of the Nazis. She tells the audience how her skin is a lampshade made for a Nazi and how she is just an object(¨Lazarus¨ 5). Further, by her comparing herself to a Jew during Hitler’s reign it emphasizes her point on how horrific it is for her to escape death and how her pain is unbearable(Collins). What is more, when a doctor is brought up it is in german calling him Herr Doktor, by her stating this it shows how her suffering was that of a Jew during the Holocaust(¨Lazarus¨ 68). In fact, Plath says that she is a jew who is getting tortured by the doctor and gives her a slow and painful death instead of finishing it right away(Collins). In other words, she sees herself as a Holocaust victim and expresses how she views her pain as isolation and by being cornered in the dark.
In addition, the tone is one of the key elements of how Plath gets her point across and letting the reader know that this poem is about her depression and suicide attempts. Plath talks about how she tried to kill herself three times and how the second try it was an injustice on how she was given a second chance(¨Lazarus¨ 37-39). Also, the tone changes from being calm and annoyed to being agitated towards the last stanza. When reading stanza twenty-seven and twenty-eight Plath becomes more agitated as she did with Herr Doktor because God, Lucifer and him are seen as an interference and she wants to show people how she can gain an advantage, without them even knowing(Dahlke). In addition, bylines repeating themselves, Plath is adding more meaning in her lines without needing to elaborating more. The repetition she uses after talking about going to hell is, ¨It’s easy enough to do it in a cell. / It’s easy enough to do it and stay put¨(¨Lazarus¨ 49-50). The lines above elaborate the feelings on what death means to her by changing the tone to hysteria(Bloom 80). Throughout the poem, the tone is never just one-sided but alternatively changing from unsteady to manic.
Furthermore, repetition is a device that Plath uses throughout the poem to get her point across. For example. ¨I am your opus, / I am your valuable, ¨(¨Lazarus¨ 70-71). The use of repetition shows Plath as a hard-headed person. Also by having one her last stanzas end by using the same word twice, adds a more dramatic effect. In the stanza, she repeats the word, ¨Beware/ Beaware¨(¨Lazarus¨ 80-81). That as a result of each repetition sentimental violence peek through because with each line she talks about pain before or after the line(Bloom 80). By her using beware twice and at the end gives the reader the intention that Plath will find her way out of the shadows and will destroy the things that made her not be able to die when she most wanted too. Lastly, Plath will soon succeed in her goal of no longer walking in the darkness alone but it will take time.
Additionally,¨̈Lady Lazarus ̈ is a poem that reflects the internal conflict Sylvia Plath had against herself. That using a simile to show how she is a cat that is reborn and how she is consumed by her depression. Further, she sees her life as the Bible and how receiving a second chance on life results in her being numb and having no emotions. By Plath bringing up the Nazi, she is telling the reader that the people in charge of killing jews are the same people that are playing with her life. By looking in the mirror and seeing herself as a Jew, she sees herself starving not due to hunger but due to being alive. Next, repetition is used to point out a more significant meaning as well as Plath to release her resentment of not being able to control Lastly, when Plath gives the reader a different feeling between every stanza, it gives the poem a better depth on what was happening in her mind and how much pain she was in before succeeding in her final suicide attempt.
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