Friday, March 8, 2019

Explication of “a Birthday Present” by Sylvia Plath

George B 11/18/11 Explication of A Birthday yield by Sylvia Plath For many readers, the draw of Sylvia Plaths poetry is distinctly linked to her demeanor as well as the desire to end her copt. As Robert Lowell states in the forward of Ariel, This poetry and living ar not a biography they tell that a life, even when disciplined, is simply not worth it (xv). A Birthday Present, written by Plath in September of 1962 and hauntingly enter in her testify voice on audio in October of that uniform year, is just one of the many poetrys that comprise the collection titled Ariel.Its allusion to felo-de-se is manifest. Its main theme is the escape from life that conclusion provides. Plaths life as well as her desire to end it is well documented, primarily beca wasting disease she has chosen to record her tormented existence in her prose and poetry. M. D. Uroff states, . . . she put the vocaliser unit herself at the center of her poems in such a way as to make her psychological vul nerability and shame an embodiment of her civilization . . . we should reckon the nature of the vocaliser in Plaths poems, her relationship to the poet, and the extent to which the poems are confessional (104).The novel, The Bell Jar, chronicles her college years and first attempt at suicide, and her poetry, primarily in the collection in Ariel, provides glimpses into her state of mind. She interjects herself into her work so deeply that it is unmistakable that the speaker in the poetry is Plath herself. With that firmly in mind, explicating this poem be sires a quest into the months that preceded her taking her own life on February 11th 1963. A symbol use in the poem A Birthday Present is the haze over The veil and what it may conceal is a theme that permeates the poem in multiple forms.In line 1 when the speaker says, What is this, behind this veil, is it ugly, is it gorgeous? The speaker continues in the successive lines to question not only what it is alone for whom it is for. In line 16, Now there are veils, shimmering like curtains and in lines 17 and 18 veils are compared to the light translucent material that cover the kitchen window as well as the misty air in January one would imagine she saw from her flat in England. And once over again in lines 55-57 when she says Only let down the veil, the veil, the veil.If it were ending I would wonder the deep gravity of it, its timeless eyes. Here she wants to let down the veil and face it head on, and in the case of death, embrace it. This is certainly not the first time that the speaker has entertained the notion of ending her life. The speaker mentions in line 13 and 14 that she does not want a present as she is only alive by accident and in line 15, I would have killed myself gladly that time any mathematical way. Plath herself had a botched suicide attempt in her past that she use as a plot point in her novel, The Bell Jar.Biographer Caitriona O Reilly chronicles the incident in 1953 after Pl ath finished a guest editorship at Mademoiselle in New York City. After prescription sleeping pills and Electroconvulsive therapy to encounter depression, Plath attempted suicide through an overdose of sleeping pills (356). The accident, as the speaker refers to it, without delay relates to the fact that she was found alive and nursed back to health at least physically. There is also an aspect of what is expected from decree of the speaker of the poem.Women in the 1950s were expected to get married and procreate, not getting seriously interested in education and careers. These things would prevent a woman from leading a happy and normal feminine life (Bennett 103). Bennett also speaks of this, Like most women in the 1950s Sylvia Plath appears to have judge the basic assumptions of this doctrine or ideology even though she knew that in many respects they ran counter to the springs of her own nature(103). This certainly flew in the face of what Sylvia Plath was about.The speaker in the poem seems to lament this in lines 7 and 8, Measuring the flour, cutting off the surplus, / adhering to rules, to rules, to rules. Likewise, Is this one for the annunciation? / My God, what a gag (9-10). Certainly, the ideals of society put forth in these lines, a womans place is in the kitchen and the comparison to the virgin birth of Christ, are an impossibleness for an educated and tormented Plath. The speaker seems to have no other alternative than ending the suffering.In the poem, there is a conflict concerning the end of the speakers life. In lines 21-26 the speaker is in essence asking for the relief of death and references the religious theme of the last supper in line 26, Let us eat our last supper at it, like a hospital plate. job 27-29 states the problem with the present that is wanted, I know why you bequeath not give it to me, / You are terrified/ the world will go up in a shriek, and your head with it,. The speaker continues to lobby for relief, I will onl y take it and go quietly. You will not even hear me open it, no paper crackle, / No falling ribbons, no bacchanalia at the end. / I do not think you credit me with this kickshaw (Lines 33-36). The shame attached to suicide is overwhelming, not necessarily for the victim notwithstanding those left to deal with societal pressures associated with it. The speaker seems to take this into account as she contemplates the act it is more important that those left behind are hale than the torture that the speaker is going through. Discretion is more important than directly confronting the underlying problems.Finally, the speaker appeals to the givers sense of duty when she describes how her death has been occurring incrementally but not nearly as quickly as she would like. The use of words like motes (small particles, like the dust particles that can be seen floating in the sunlight) and carbon monoxide (deadly despite being undetectable by looking or sight) described as sweetly breatha ble in the lines 37-43 are used to show how the speaker has suffered for years from nonvisual or nearly invisible things for quite a long time To you they are only transparencies, exceed air, (Line 37). Let it not come by word of mouth, I should be sixty/ By the time the whole of it was delivered, and to numb to use it (Lines 53-54). The speaker is frustrated by the gift bearer insistence that death come slowly the speaker cannot wait that long. A Birthday Present fundamentally reads like a suicide note trying to reassure those left behind that death is really a grand relief. Lowell elegantly sums it up Suicide, father-hatred, self-loathingnothing is too more for the macabre gaiety of her control.Yet it is too much her arts immortality is lifes degradation. The surprise, the shimmering, unwrapped birthday present, the transcendence into the red eye, the cauldron of morning, and the lover, who are always waiting for her, are death, her own abrupt and defiant death (Forward xiv). Defiant in death as she was in life, one can only hope that Plath has found what she was missing.Works Cited Bennett, Paula. My heart A Loaded Gun, Female Creativity and Feminist Poetics. Boston shine Press, 1986. Lowell, Robert. Foreword. Ariel. New York First Perennial Classics, 1999. xiii-xvi. Print. O Reilly, Caitriona. Sylvia Plath. N. p. , n. d. Web. 10 Nov. 2011. lthttp//www. us. oup. com/us/pdf/americanlit/plath. pdfgt. Plath, Sylvia. A Birthday Present. Ariel. New York First Perennial Classics, 1999. 48-51. Print. Uroff, M. D.. Sylvia Plath and Confessional Poetry a Reconsideration. The Iowa freshen8. 1 (1977) 104-115. JStor. Web. 16 Nov. 2011. lthttp//www. jstor. org/stable/20158710gt.

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