Critical Appreciation of Lady Lazarus
Lady Lazarus is one of the last poems by Sylvia Plath written on 23rd October 1962. It was broadcast on BBC on October 30, 1963. It was also published in the posthumous volume Ariel poems by Sylvia Plath. Lady Lazarus, Ariel and Fever 103° are sister poems. In all these poems the speakers are women who have no use of their past experiences.
The theme of Plath’s Poem Lady Lazarus
In Lady Lazarus, the theme is resurrection. But Plath went a step further and threatened to destroy both God and Satan. Plath has declared the woman stretching to be as one whom no man can send crying out of life. Plath experiences in the poem a ritual death and emerges stronger or it is in her last phase of life she has come back with a change outlook. The attitude of Plath has changed in this poem. In the concluding line of this poem the Omen speaker says, “And I eat man like air.” The same attitude has been showed towards God and Devil (“Hers God, Hers Lucifer/Beware/Beware”).
Feminist Element in Lady Lazarus
In many of her great poems Sylvia Plath has taken up the problem of male tyranny over enslaved women. Such poems are “Ariel”, “Purdah”, “Fever 103°“. Thus Sylvia Plath is said to be a forerunner of the Feminist women. In the last poems the women are meek or submissive. But they are of aggressive nature that encourages them to challenge men and our power them. In such poems there is the spirit of assertion of individual value to overcome the reflections of social institutions. In Plath’s poems, men are representing as physical superior to women.
- Lady Lazarus as a Confessional Poem
The theme of death in the poem Lady Lazarus is remarkable for the treatment of death. Here death is seen:
“………..as something survival, even surpassed : Lady Lazarus ends with a resurrection and a threat, and even in ‘Daddy’ she manages to turn her back on the grinning, beckoning figure : “Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.” Hence, perhaps, the energy of these poems, their weird jollity in the teeth of everything, their recklessness.”
The Biblical allusion in Lady Lazarus
The word Lazarus is taken from the parable of John in the Bible. Lazarus came back to life after Jesus Christ called him from his grave saying, “Lazarus come out.” But there is another Biblical reference. Lazarus is also a name of the diseased beggar in the parable of Saint Luke where Lazarus went to heaven and the rich man went to hell. Similarly, the word Lady Lazarus carries many meanings. One meaning is a woman of good family. It also means a woman whose husband is higher in rank than a Barren or the daughter of a noble man not lower than an earl. Thus the speaker of Lady Lazarus is any woman for whom the polite way of address may be lady. They show that the female Lazarus, the speaker of the poem, is connected with resurrected Lazarus.
Sylvia’s faith in rebirth or resurrection
The poem begins with the symbols of the Nazi Outrages in Europe. She thinks that physical death is nothing as she says in the following stanzas :
“And I a smiling woman
I am only thirty
And like the cat I have nine times to die.”
These lines show death or the grave is not the place of final destruction. She believes like the Eastern mystics that there is life after death also. This idea runs parallel to death and at the end of the poem she says,
Is an art, like everything else,
I do it exceptionally well
I do it so it feels like hell
I do it so it feels real
I guess you could say I’ve a call.”
Thus after death man rises like phoenix which is fabulous bird supposed at the end of certain cycles of time to burn itself in flames and rise renewed in youth from the ashes.
Thus this poem has autobiographical experiences of Sylvia Plath. She looks back at the most movable experiences of her life, considers the theme of death and comes to the conclusion that life never ends with death but opens a new start of life. The speaker calls her a smiling woman. This is a clear reference to Yeats’ poem Among School Children’ where the speaker is 64 years old smiling public man. Yeats’ occultism is clearly the basis of the poem ‘Lady Lazarus’.
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