Research Paper: Sylvia Plath: Use of Dramatic Monologue as Confessional Poetry

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[. . .] " In this poem, the speaker is not the male Lazarus of the Bible but a woman who has made coming back from the grave her carnival-like 'trick.' There is obvious, implied reference to Plath's own, highly public suicide attempt when she was still an undergraduate at Smith College, from which she recovered.

Lady Lazarus, the resurrected woman, simultaneously mocks the doctors who have brought her back to life as well as celebrates what she sees as her unique 'talent.' According to Plath herself, "the speaker is a woman who has the great and terrible gift of being reborn. The only trouble is, she has to die first. She is the Phoenix, the libertarian spirit, what you will. She is also just a good, plain, very resourceful woman" (Curley 213). Plath very explicitly speaks about the subject as a separate woman to herself and although there is a clear confessional element in the way in which Lady Lazarus talks about being brought back from the dead by doctors, the language and the tone of the poem is also designed to distance the poet from the poem's speaking subject:

What a million filaments.

The peanut-crunching crowd

Shoves in to see

In "Lady Lazarus," Plath blurs the line between speaker and poet -- sometimes Lady Lazarus, in her showmanship and her language seems distanced from Plath because of the irony and humor used to depict the crowd's cold fascination with her. At other times, there are specific references made to Plath's life such as when she says

"The first time it happened I was ten. / It was an accident." This detail sounds relatively realistic, versus when she calls those who brought her back 'Herr Doktor' and 'Herr Enemy,' (recalling German fascism and a deliberate play on the sound of the words 'Herr' and 'her.'). Throughout the poem, Plath leaves the speaker guessing as to how much she is describing her own life vs. how much she is mocking the idea of any woman (or any person) being brought back from mental illness into normalcy after attempting suicide. Although not explicitly set in a postwar setting like "Daddy," "Lady Lazarus" does invoke the war and parallels the Nazi regime with that of the oppression of women in its reference to how the woman is signified by a "cake of soap, / A wedding ring, / A gold filling." Plath is once again not herself a survivor and the speaker of the poem but through this language she suggests the struggles of Lady Lazarus and by implication all people against oppression have a common link.

Some critics have found Plath's elision between her own life and an archetypal, yet politically-motivated speaker to be unsettling. "In Plath's case, the 'old narrative form' is that of a lyrical expression through personalized mythmaking, within which the Holocaust fits uncomfortably" (Strangeways 385). Plath draws a connection between her own psychological problems, an oppressive social construct, and the ultimate tools of violent oppression. In the case of the Holocaust, the horror was inflicted by others; in the case of both the speakers of "Daddy" and "Lady Lazarus," the injury appears self-inflicted.

However, the Holocaust symbolism questions the ability of both subjects to act autonomously, given the world in which they inhabit and the unfeeling nature of the males around them. Plath's use of the dramatic monologue enables her to distance herself from the context and not say explicitly that her own, personal suffering was equal to that of the victims of the Holocaust but her blurring of the lines between the persona she uses in the poem and herself also allows her dramatic monologues to still have a confessional, personal mode of address which directly links the personal to the political.

Works Cited

Curley, Maureen. "Plath's 'Lady Lazarus.'" The Explicator 59.4 (2001): 213-4.

ProQuest. Web. 9 Apr. 2014.

Hassanpour, Forough & Hashim, Ruzy. "An Angry Language: A Stylistic Study of the Images of Men in the Sylvia Plath's 'Daddy.'" Studies in Literature and Language 4.1 (2012): 123-6. ProQuest. Web. 9 Apr. 2014.

Plath, Sylvia. "Daddy." Poets.org. 9 Apr 2014.

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15291

Plath, Sylvia. "Lady Lazarus." Poets.org. 9 Apr 2014.

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15292

"Poetic technique: Dramatic monologue." Poets.org. 9 Apr 2014.

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5776

Strangeways, Al. "The Boot in the Face': The Problem of the Holocaust in the Poetry

of Sylvia Plath." Contemporary Literature 37.3 (1996): 370-90. ProQuest. Web. 9 Apr. 2014. [END OF PREVIEW]

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Sylvia Plath: Use of Dramatic Monologue as Confessional Poetry.  (2014, April 9).  Retrieved June 17, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/sylvia-plath-use-dramatic-monologue/6004662

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"Sylvia Plath: Use of Dramatic Monologue as Confessional Poetry."  Essaytown.com.  April 9, 2014.  Accessed June 17, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/sylvia-plath-use-dramatic-monologue/6004662.