Blog Nine: Reflections

This semester was not at all what I expected it to be. I went into it thinking I would be all about Plath and would hate Hughes. Instead I found myself really appreciating Hughes’ poetry-specifically the Crow poems. I do appreciate Plath’s poetry as well, but I find her poems to be much more challenging. I appreciated the in depth coverage of certain poems like “The Colossus” in class, and I failed to enjoy any conversation where Plath was being gaslighted. I wish I would have had more time and energy to delve deeper into all of my projects this semester, but I am none-the-less content with what I was able to learn.

Cheers.

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Blog Eight: Reactions to Isis and Edge

Yet again some of the opinions expressed in class today have left me wanting. Several people suggested that Plath attempts to deal with her “daddy issues” through mothering a child. One person even said that becoming a mother made her forget about the memories of her father. I see that my classmates take Hughes words quite literally. I find it very presumptuous of us, as readers, to assume he is completely right.

Depression is a fairly private thing. Perhaps Plath had daddy-baby issues, and perhaps she conveyed those issues to Hughes, but the fact that Hughes reveals information about her internal feelings, which I am sure she said to him in confidence, discredits him as a reliable source.

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Blog Seven: Birthday Letters

Birthday Letters as a volume of poems is indeed moving and beautiful. I have a hard time appreciating the poems in a biographical light though. Hughes is clearly the speaker of the poems, and Plath is the “you” referred to so regularly. The fact that Hughes had this published after both his and Plath’s deaths seems unfair. After the publication no questions could be asked regarding their relationship, and Plath could not refute. Hughes gets the final word on how others perceive their relationship, without having to stand by his words. I understand there could be several different motivating factors to his publishing decision, but the nature of publication along with how he forms Plath as a poetic character leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

I recently read this article from the Huffington Post on referring to women as crazy. The article defends the right of women to have feelings without being negatively labeled for expressing them, and scolds men who chose to label instead of listen. It got me thinking that gaslighting doesn’t just occur to women who do not have a psychological disorder, but to people with psychological issues too. People are much too quick to dismiss the feelings of those (male or female) who suffer from such issues. This is evident in Birthday Letters.

In our last class several different students agreed that Hughes portrays Plath as “crazy” in the collection. We discussed “Rabbit Catcher” in depth, and it was suggested that Plath seems locked inside herself while Hughes seems locked out of himself. This can be seen in the lines:

It seemed perfect to me. Feeding babies,

Your Germanic scowl, edged like a helmet,

Would not translate itself. I sat baffled.

I was a fly outside on the window-pane

Of my own domestic drama. You refused to lie there

Being indolent, you hated it.

Here Plath is obviously upset about something, Hughes doesn’t ask what is wrong or try to understand what she is feeling, instead he withdraws, thus they are locked away into separate mental rooms. Somehow out of this nobody noted that Hughes was insensitive or lacked empathy, just that Plath was crazy. This makes me wonder about our classes biases. Hardly a bad word has been spoken about Hughes during class discussion, yet Plath is consistently criticized for her emotions. Does our class have a gender bias? A mental illness bias? Or a sad combination of both?

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Blog Six: Reactions to Crow

So far in this class I have enjoyed reading the Crow poems infinitely more than anything else. I love the religious undertones, the variation of the creation story, the exploration into sex and sexuality, and the binaries that are broken throughout the collection. There is a sensual, dirty, primal chaos to the poems that kept me not just reading but rereading.

Crow is instinctual, curious, a trouble maker, and a trickster. But these aren’t portrayed as necessarily bad things in the poems. Compared with the other animals that Hughes writes about I feel like Crow is much more personified, commanding, and active. Crow doesn’t have things happen to him; he happens to things. His power is limitless, but not necessarily divine.

Several theories have been brought up about the Crow poems in relation to Sylvia Plath.  Though Hughes said he wrote the Crow poems to work through the devastation of Plath’s death, Heather Clark in “Crow and Counter-Revision” makes the argument that the Crow poems were revisions of Plath’s poetry. While I can understand why readers would be tempted to use biographical theory in interpreting these poems,  I personally enjoyed using a New Critical approach.

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Blog Five: Reactions to The Bell Jar

I must say I was very disappointed with my fellow classmate’s reactions to Esther Greenwood’s character in our class discussion of “The Bell Jar.” My peers left me with the impression that they not only had never experienced depression themselves, but have never had a close relationship with someone who had the problem either. The sheer lack of understanding and empathy left me very disheartened. Esther was called everything from “selfish” to a “bitch.” I took these words to heart because I share many characteristics with the character.

This is a coming of age novel. Perhaps many don’t remember their transition into young adulthood, or are in denial about their thoughts during that time. Most young adults go through a period where they feel they are superior to others, though they simultaneously are unsure about themselves and their place in the universe, just like Esther. It is not a sign of a bad person to have such thoughts. I find it especially innocent because Esther doesn’t verbally attack anyone due to these feelings of hers, she just mulls them over in her head. Coming of age novels contain mostly internal dialogue, which we clearly see in “The Bell Jar.” The coming of age novel is like a diary, and as readers we are entrusted with these thoughts not so we can pick them apart and despise the characters who thought them, but so we can bridge the disconnect between people through understanding.

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Blog Four: Favorite Passage of Essay

Having to chose a favorite passage from my essay on Plath’s “The Snowman on the Moor” was not easy. A lot of my essay built into other portions of it so it was hard to take an isolated passage from it that would make sense alone. Here is what I chose:

“Earlier in the poem there is foreshadowing of the warning of the skulls. The daisies warn the woman to remain “Indoors with politic goodwill, not haste/Into a landscape/Of stark wind-harrowed hills and weltering mist.” The daisies are described as “beheaded… marrowless, and gaunt.” This is quite similar to the decapitated skulls that appear later. The house here represents the domestication of women. The house itself is a yonic symbol, it is fairly hallow like the womb and life grows within it. The house is also where women have been placed for centuries. A woman’s habitat has typically been in the home to carry the burden of raising children. The landscape the daisies warn against entering into is a metaphor for a land where the binary of men over women may be broken. It is a scary, mysterious scene where no other living person is found. In this sense, broken women warn a fellow woman of the dangers of fighting the status quo.”

I suppose I like this passage because you get the sense of what the entire essay is about. There are a few things I would change about this passage now though. Along with some rephrasing, I think I would spell out the point I am trying to get at a little more clearly.

 

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Blog Three: The Colossus

I have been working on analyzing “The Colossus” for some time now. It seems like I have neither the time nor the patience to finish it the way I want. Ideally I would have carried my thoughts further, and outlined the fine details of my theory. Alas, there are many other blogs I want to (and need to) write. Here are where my thoughts had taken me up to this point:

Before analyzing the poem, I feel it is necessary to identify what the Colossus is. The Colossus of Rhodes was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It stood over 30 meters high and was designed in the image of the Greek god Helios. Helios, Greek for Sun, rode a chariot from east to west everyday pulling the sun. The statue was destroyed in an earthquake around 226 B.C. Funding was available for it to be rebuilt, but an oracle’s prophecy led to it never being reconstructed.

It is through this information I feel it is fair to identify the Colossus in this poem as a symbol of a patriarchal system.

“I shall never get you put together entirely,
Pieced, glued, and properly jointed.
Mule-bray, pig-grunt and bawdy cackles
Proceed from your great lips.
It’s worse than a barnyard.”

At the point in time in which Plath wrote this poem there were not many famous female poets. None-the-less, the system of male domination was changing. The above passage references how the patriarchal system has come tumbling down and can’t be put back together. The sounds from the failed system aren’t words, but animal noises, showing that there was no real argument as to why the system should have remained the same.

“Perhaps you consider yourself an oracle,
Mouthpiece of the dead, or of some god or other.
Thirty years now I have labored
To dredge the silt from your throat.
I am none the wiser.”

In this stanza the history of the Colossus comes in handy. The oracle in ancient times condemned the rebuilding of the Colossus once it had fallen. (After reading The Bell Jar it is interesting to note that the oracle was a female virgin. Plath in the book, along with several of her poems, stresses the importance of remaining pure in the biblical sense. Here she is asking the patriarchy if they think consider themselves as great as this pure, young figure of female power–reversing the binary of male superiority over women.) It is a common belief that god has ordained that men are superior to women, made in the image of god, etc. She says she has tried to clear the loose sand from the patriarchy’s throat for 30 years, about how old she was when she wrote the poem. The loose sand should be easily removed, but in this case resists.

“Scaling little ladders with glue pots and pails of Lysol
I crawl like an ant in mourning
Over the weedy acres of your brow
To mend the immense skull-plates and clear
The bald, white tumuli of your eyes.”

Here Plath uses domestic objects to show her place/role among the system. Through her domestic role of cleaning and mending she tries to clear the eyes of the Colossus so it can see.

“A blue sky out of the Oresteia
Arches above us. O father, all by yourself
You are pithy and historical as the Roman Forum.
I open my lunch on a hill of black cypress.
Your fluted bones and acanthine hair are littered”

In this stanza Plath calls out the patriarchy: alone it is a grand traditional system, but in conjunction with the rest of the world it is weak.

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/260072/Helios

http://www.rhodesguide.com/rhodes/colossus_rhodes.php

http://www.biography.com/people/sylvia-plath-9442550

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