Sylvia Plath: Poems

Horror in the poetry of Sylvia Plath

Any true representation of horror, the sickening realization of the hideous or unbelievably ghastly, seems something of an impossibility. How can one speak the unspeakable? How can unimaginable terror and revulsion ever be recreated? Yet writers of Modernist literature, reflecting on the anxiety of the ominous, whirlwind world around them, have developed astute strategies for representing a sensation that is, if not exactly akin, then as close as will ever come to horror itself. The poetry of Sylvia Plath is one such example, employing visceral use of metaphor and metonymy, using colour and synasthesia to create an atmosphere of absolute morbid terror, with cinematic techniques emphasizing the nakedness of her personal revelation. Revealing an intense fixation on death, suicide and haunting, Plath explores with vivid, unrestrained vigour the terror and violence of a freak show world shrouded in darkness.

Plath’s use of metaphor and metonymy is a potent device for conveying the nightmarish peculiarity of the world. Ghoulish imagery of death and decay presents horror in its most powerful metonymic form, such as in “All the Dead Dears,” in which Plath describes a decrepit skeleton in vivid detail- “the ankle-bone of the woman has...

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