The Injustice of Reality: Social Messages in Gilman’s “Wedded Bliss” and Plath’s “Kindness”
Poetry is a meaningful expression of art through the illustration of fascinating words and their hidden implication used to reflect the sense of life. Sylvia Plath as well as Charlotte Gilman were both prolific female poets who made a mark in the world of poetry and literature. Both “Kindness” by Sylvia Plath and “Wedded Bliss” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman represent a severe reality though the portrayal of irony that might emphasize the meaning of the external world among people and nature. In “Kindness”, Plath depicts the truth of life while demonstrating the significance of kindness as a powerful opposition to death. She uses irony on a number of instances in her poem including the title to bring out a distorted and shallow expression of what she is going through. Meanwhile, Gilman focuses on the portrayal of marriage among animals as the revelation of absurdity due to their discrepancies. Thus, both authors epitomize the theme of social expectations and the inability of their accomplishment, but Plath glorifies kindness and perceives it though death, and Gilman portrays love via marriage as the impossibility of animals’ kingdom co-existence.
In “Kindness”, Plath concentrates on a deep effect of kindness and its considerable role in the life of each individual. From the very beginning, the reader notices that the author praises kindness as an integral part of her life as it seems to possess some inexplicable privileges and superiority. Nevertheless, the speaker applies irony when she tries to envision the image of kindness including the title that might bring out a distorted and shallow expression of what she is going through. Moreover, the words “Kindness glides about my house./ Dame Kindness, she is so nice!” show that the speaker personifies kindness and perceives her as a beautiful woman (Plath 1-2). On the other hand, these also enhance sincere feelings of the woman who uses an exaggerated sense of humor and sarcasm to hide her real feelings of desperation. The image of “the house” creates some harmony as a symbol of a warm relationship and comfort. The word “glides” sounds horrible as kindness resembles the ghost who lacks human features indeed. That is why one may assume that kindness is a precise symbol of death as it does not really exist.
Simplicity plays a vital role as it allows the reader to catch and realize the primary message concerning the depth of reality and a human inability to escape death even if kindness is around. The point is that simple words and accurate expressions demonstrate the speaker’s feelings and makes anyone immerse into the plot of the poem. In this case, the lines “The blue and red jewels of her rings smoke/ In the windows, the mirrors/ Are filling with smiles” have a metaphorical meaning as these somehow reflect the image of kindness that exists in every nook of the speaker’s soul and heart (Plath 3-5). Then, blue and red colors might create a pleasant tone and cause a high mood but, unfortunately, the image of “smoke” symbolizes darkness related to death. However, if kindness refers to death, it attempts to hide its emotions through smiles which might confuse the speaker. Perhaps, it means that the woman lacks moral power and physical strength to oppose kindness that control over her life, and therefore, she cannot stop death. This idea contributes to the creation of the main conflict of the poem as kindness brings nothing more than disappointment and despair. Plath seems somewhat gracious about dealing with the fact that she might be staring at the barrel of death. Eventually, she uses the word “kindness” to denote death or paint a gloomy picture to the audience, but a symbolic image of “sugar” might have a soothing impact on the reader’s perception.
Focusing on the combination of life and death, the speaker also reveals her nature through motherhood. The words “What is so real as the cry of a child?/ A rabbit’s cry may be wilder/ But it has no soul” depicts her inner sufferings – the sufferings of a lonely mother who experiences sorrow due to a childish cry (Plath 6-8). It might be a definite hint at the presence of death which imminent. Then, the reader can hear an innocent sound based on tenderness and grief as there is nothing worse than childish tears and mother’s sufferings. Nevertheless, the image of “the rabbit” might confuse the reader as it is usually associated with kindness and has nothing in common with death. Additionally, such negative thoughts emphasize the woman’s insecurity and vulnerability as a devoted mother she cannot get rid of negative emotions. She tries to explain that death has no soul, and it might be too hard for her to withstand its killing power. That is why, in the last stanza, the speaker continues saying that there is no way of stopping her own death but the thought of her two children gives her reason to stay alive as long as she can.
In “Wedded Bliss”, Gilman ironically illustrates the pleasure of being married on one side, and the inability to be together because of particular differences that separate God’s creatures. Similarly to Plath, Gilman also applies sarcasm to depict the essence of reality and its killing influence on the external world – the kingdom of animals and people. However, she praises marriage as something saint and destructive at the same time as even animals cannot exist together due to their distinctive origin. A repetitive phrase used three times “O come and be my mate!” makes the reader feel compassion to the protagonists who suffer from solitude (Gilman 1). Both authors personify their characters, but Gilman prefers to illustrate animals instead of something abstractive. Even though the speaker suggest an idea that the eagle can live with the hen, the lion with the sheep, the salmon with the clam, the reader realizes that is nothing more than irony and absurdity. These contain some contradictions as the emphasis of a severe reality and conduce to the conflict of the poem as none of them can live together indeed. The words “I have no wish to try” emphasize an overall thought being unable to obey the existent injustice of the surrounding (Gilman 6). Thus, all six characters mentioned in the poem are completely different, and that is why their co-existence in the marriage is merely impossible.
Plath opposes kindness to death, and Gilman portrays the controversy between opportunities and probabilities. Gilman believes that the lion slays but on the other hand, the sheep admits that she would like to see him to “pursue, devour and kill (Gilman 16). This paints a conflicting image to the audience because, in reality, the lion and the sheep cannot live in the so-called marriage. In fact, the lion would prey on the sheep at first sight, and therefore, the speaker concentrates on the society’s expectation by suggesting that the lion and the sheep can actually exist together in a matrimonial relationship. In contrast to “Kindness”, in “Wedded Bliss”, Gilman brings the tale of six characters alive when she delves into the subject of marriage. In addition, the six characters in the poem are legendary foes (predator and prey), and thus, they cannot live together in the real world. However, the speaker makes the audience believe that the eagle and the hen can stay together just as the lion and the sheep, as well as the salmon and the clam. The lions “Ah, this is Love, my own!” emphasize the woman’s personal belief referred to the image of love as the revelation of integrity and sincerity which might exist even among wild and peaceful animals (Gilman 8). Thus, Gilman repeats this significant phrase three times to reveal the essence of true love and an invisible hope for its future existence like Plath associates kindness with death.
Furthermore, both speakers experience the destruction of their social expectations, but Plath perceives it though death, and Gilman via mockery connected with the marriage. The phrase “with a cup of tea” is a metaphor used to emphasize the speaker’s attitude towards the meaning of life (Plath 21). Moreover, this imagery allows the reader to feel the taste of the woman’s life based on grief and bitterness caused by death. Then, the last line “You hand me two children, two roses” contains simile as the mother compares her children with roses (Plath 25). She tries to explain that an innocent life of her children reminds her about the fading of the roses and the fleetness of time because of death that might long for both. As Gilman, she brings out irony in all the three marriages since all the animals in the poem do not change their character and the six mates seem to spend their lives alone. Even though in “Wedded Bliss”, Gilman presents just the assumption what might be in case of their mutual understanding and marriage existence. The words “My love for you is deep” and “But my love is all devotion” reflect the depth of love through irony as it is nonsense among wild animals (Gilman 11, 24). Plath intends to take her own life but she is held back by the thought of her children. Gradually, this narrative goes beyond the realities of true life as it is common knowledge that the animals used in the poem are unable to spend their lives together. Meanwhile, Plath realizes that death is more powerful than she is indeed, and there is no additional option to run away.
“Kindness” by Plath and “Wedded Bliss” by Gilman present the question of social prospects via the antagonism between kindness to death and the opportunity of the marriage to its inability. The authors portray the main theme from different perspectives, but both show the injustice of a cruel reality of the external world. Irony as one of the most vital elements of the poems illustrates the speakers’ attitude towards the sense of life, its bitterness, and uncovered truth concerning a close interaction between life and death. In “Kindness”, Plath demonstrates irony to hide her inner sufferings and emotions about her impending demise by smiling and mentioning her two children. On the other hand, Gilman uses a narrative in her poem to describe a possible marital relationship between animals that are natural enemies.
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