When reading Sylvia Plath’s poems I was really struck by her Holocaust symbolism, especially in “Lady Lazarus”. The poem is clearly about her suicide attempts and even foreshadows her successful suicide later that year. However, it seemed odd that she would compare her attempts to the Holocaust. It seems odd that she would relate her struggles with suicide to the experience the Jews had forced upon them. I was also interested in the fact that she only used the words Nazi and Jew once then resigned herself to subtleties and vague descriptions. Stanzas one and two illustrate the moment in time she is relating herself to while the rest of the poem relies on the reader to understand the points she is trying to make:
A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot
My face a featureless, fine
Furthermore, I saw a lot of her comments about being a show for other and crowds coming to watch her as another way to relate to the experiences of the Jews and how people took pleasure from the horrible conditions in which they lived and got joy out of seeing the emaciated beings the Jews had become. She also uses the term flesh and bone a couple of times which is how the Jews were described during their time spent in concentration camps. The use of the word Herr to talk to the doctor could be relating to her German past but could also be a reference to the oppressive nature of the Germans during WWII.
What does everyone think about using the Holocaust as a point by which to measure her experiences? It almost seemed to me that she was trying to make her experience less personal by saying what she felt and went through was the same as thousands of other people at the hands of a race. Or does anyone think it was just a way for her to make others understand how she was feeling?
The last stanza says:
Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.
What did you think of how she ended the poem? In following the Holocaust allusions, I saw the ash as her past and the brushes with death she had, or actual death for the Jews, and her red hair as a way of saying she was in no way Aryan thus a victim of the Germans. However, I did not know exactly what to make of the last line. It seems to me that the ending is her way of taking control of her past and saying that no one can control her or what she is planning on doing. She describes all of the doctors as men, and it is possible that her last line is showing that she is above them and will not follow what they say. I saw the ending as her way of finally standing up for herself and realizing that she had a say in her life, or her death as it ended up being. Did anyone else find it kind of disheartening that she seems to finally have power in her life and then chooses to end it not much later? On the other hand, it almost seems that this poem was her way of finally releasing herself for good to achieve peace.
With regard to her other works, how does her Holocaust influence in this poem relate to how she uses similar ideas in “Daddy”? What does it mean that she seems to align herself with the Jews and her father with the Nazis? What did you make of the fact that “Child” was written near the very end of her life but seems less accusatory and angry than her other poems? Why do you think the editor of the Anthology chose to represent her poems in the other that they appeared?