Sylvia Plath: Poems

A Herr-story: “Lady Lazarus” and Her Rise from the Ash

The primary concern of Sylvia Plath’s poem “Lady Lazarus” is how the female speaker views her relationship with men; the emotions associated with her views of sex are equated to death, and the desire for her to die. This metaphor of death, used throughout the poem, parallels how she sees sex as an act worse than death, and that the institution of marriage is not only a prison, but for her, can be likened to a Nazi concentration camp. By analyzing each metaphorical section (the concentration camp, the mummy Lazarus, the circus, and the phoenix), and by examining literary techniques such as line enjambment and repetition, one can conclude that the speaker equated conventional marriage and relationships to a prison (or concentration camp), and when trapped by this, she would prefer to view herself as dead, rather than acknowledging any sexual acts in that marriage.

Beginning in the second stanza, and continuing into the third -- “Bright as a Nazi lampshade, / My right foot / A paperweight, / My face a featureless, fine / Jew linen” (lines 5-9) -- one can immediately see how she’s comparing something (that one later learns is a relationship) to the Holocaust, specifically the way the Nazis viewed the Jews as household products worth...

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