Lady Lazarus: Sylvia Plath - Line by line analysis

Dany Richardson
Mind Map by Dany Richardson , updated more than 1 year ago
Dany Richardson
Created by Dany Richardson almost 6 years ago


A line by line simple analysis of Sylvia Plath's, "Lady Lazarus".

Resource summary

Lady Lazarus: Sylvia Plath - Line by line analysis
1 Lots of similarities between Plath and Lady L
2 Line 1: "I have done it again"
2.1 "it" means death; she has died again.
2.1.1 Narrator/Lady L has died and resurrected before (line 2: "One year in every ten").
2.1.2 Uses an ambiguous term; doesn't tell us whether she is currently dead or alive; it is a broad word - an umbrella term.
3 Lazarus: a biblical reference/a story from the bible about the resurrection of Lazarus.
4 Lines 4-9:
4.1 Refers to the rumours that Nazi used the bodies of slaughtered Jews to make everyday objects
4.1.1 Line 4/5: "my skin, bright as a Nazi lampshade" Lines 4-9 are all metaphors as far as we can tell; we assume Lady L is currently somewhat alive, but the poem itself it ambiguous and she may in fact be in her current, dead state.
4.1.2 line 6/7: "my right foot a paperweight,"
4.1.3 line 8/9: "my face a featureless, fine, Jew linen"
4.1.4 The narrator/Plath compares herself to Holocaust victims and even at one point at the very end of the poem, imagines herself being burnt alive in the crematorium of a concentration camp, ("I turn and burn", "ash, ash-", "you poke and stir" and "out of the ash i rise with my red hair." Graphic disturbing images help express Lady L's feelings (and perhaps Plath's too) *emotive and powerful language* Plath may see herself as Lady L (speculation) as it is known that she suffered from depression and was treated badly at the hands of her pro-Nazi(?) father.
5 In lines 10-12, Lady L says: "Peel off the napkin, O, my enemy. Do I terrify?--"
5.1 she directly addresses the audience here; this creates a sense of fear for the audience and a sense of power for the narrator.
5.1.1 the use of the direct yet rhetorical question is a display of the narrator's power: they know the answer to the question: as well as Lady L does: yes, the graphic descriptions and morbid imagery does scare us.
5.2 when she refers to her enemy, we aren't sure who exactly she's addressing - is it us as the readers, is it a broad and all encompassing term? Is she being specifically vague and keeping the identity of her enemy concealed? Perhaps, her enemy is the death and resurrection she faces each decade.
6 Lines 13-18 are graphic and morbid descriptions of Lady L's dead appearance: another shock tactic.
6.1 Line 13 says: "The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?" - this is a list of three and a rhetorical question that expands on the previous line that says: "Do I terrify?--"
6.1.1 She knows she is terrifying to behold and again this is a show of narrative power that aims to stir feelings of fear and repulsion in the audience.
6.1.2 the list of three used here simply allows Lady L to emphasize that she is dead; her eyes are sockets but her teeth are whole, she walks and she is human but she is not alive. It's emphasizing that she is in fact dead at this point. Grotesque and unhuman and, ultimately yes, terrifying.
6.2 It is all synonymous with death and corpses and the living dead/walking corpses.
6.3 lines 14 speaks of "the sour breath" that is a common affliction among the dead (but is also ironic as the dead don't/shouldn't breathe)
6.3.1 the use of this irony adds a bitterness to the tone of the poem.
6.4 line 15 says: "will vanish in a day" - this is a follow on from line 14 and is telling us that when she's dead again, the sour breath will be gone - as will she.. Symbolism?
7 Line 15-18 say: "soon, soon the flesh the grave cave ate will be at home on me"
7.1 Repetition of "soon" is simply for emphasis
7.2 this stanza is telling us that Lady L has already begun rotting.
7.3 "grave",, "cave" and "ate" - the repetition of a vowel sound - assonance

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