Sylvia Plath draws upon her personal experiences to blend a range of powerful emotions, weaving them cleverly throughout her poems. ‘Lady Lazarus’ and ‘Daddy’ explore her intimate struggles and how the abandonment and betrayal of masculine figures in her life shaped her views on life and death. Her carefully selected language is crucial in exhibiting her feelings about the oppression of herself as a woman and her demand of dominance over the men around her.
The protagonist of ‘Lady Lazarus’ is an allegory of Sylvia Plath herself, the suicide attempts in the poem being a reflection of the poet’s own suicidal tendencies. The title itself is a reference to Lazarus of Bethany from the Gospel of John, which suggests a similarity between the narrator’s resuscitation by ‘Herr Doktor’ and the resurrection of Lazarus by Jesus; revived without apparent consent. This comparison to God is repeated in her use of ‘Herr Doktor’, ‘Herr Enemy’ and ‘Herr God/Herr Lucifer’ linking all these figures as equals, merging their motives and insinuating their connection as one force of evil in the form of men. This sets up a disparity between males and females. The fight for feminine control is presented powerfully within this same section of the poem, as the narrator claims she ‘will eat men like air’. The use of the word ‘air’ is effective as it is pronounced very similarly to ‘Herr’, German for Mister, used several lines earlier. This suggests that she can and will devour the masculine title of these male figures and with it any dominance of which they hold above her.
The use of German words also links in with her allusions to the Holocaust, relevant to her childhood, set in the midst of World War II. Plath declares her ‘skin/Bright as a Nazi lampshade’ and her ‘face a featureless, fine/Jew linen’. This links the subject of the poem to the situation of the Jewish people and implies the oppression and possession of herself in relation to those around her. This repression of...
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