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Written by arushi Singh, Elizabeth Shaw
Plath is a confessional poet, and we might be tempted to think that the speaker of this poem is Plath herself. However, though the poem is clearly based on Plath's life experiences, we can't truly know to what extent the speaker is based on Plath herself, and should treat the speaker as a character who is separate to the author.
The speaker initially finds solace in stasis, as mentioned in the beginning. The tone of the poem is calm, and so is that of the speaker. The speaker is comforted by this “peace”. Suddenly the poem escalates, and so does the tone of the speaker. The tone of the poem is therefore not just a parallel to the poem but often guides the poem. The speaker suddenly shifts into a space of fear as they are taken into a landscape of the substanceless blue. This line doesn't seem to make sense, but this may be intentional as the speaker is also confused about what is happening.
The speaker is shocked at the sudden change in her environment and hence the 'substanceless blue'. The speaker is caught off guard and the jumbling of these words represents her confusion. The description of Ariel is given in bits and pieces which signifies the fragmentation of this experience. The speaker has so far asserted significance even as the powerless character. The fragmented narration also helps characterize this fear and powerlessness of the speaker. But for all the inherent differences that isolate the speaker from the wild beauty of this experience, she finally does become one with Ariel, having slowly coalesced her senses and been able to experience the joy of what is happening.
The speaker undergoes a transformation during the poem. At first she feels disorientated and out of control as the horse takes off, however by the end she begins to feel more comfortable, and there is a strong sense of empowerment. Due to the power she feels whilst riding, she transforms into another character completely. She is 'White Godiva', a figure of sensuality and power, whilst her horse becomes 'God's lioness'.
We can see a rejection of her old life, perhaps even a rejection of her role as a mother and wife as 'The child's cry/ Melts in the wall.' She passes by her old life and becomes something else completely. She is instead 'the arrow', representing direction, force and power, and is 'suicidal', representing the metaphorical killing of her old self.
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