Critical Analysis of the Poem The Applicant by Sylvia Plath

Critical Analysis of the Poem The Applicant by Sylvia Plath

The Applicant by Sylvia Plath Analysis

The Applicant is a very unique poem in its conception. It is called a spiel poem in which two persons, husband and wife converse with each other. A noted critic Brain has correctly evaluated the poem in the following words.

Gender floats unassigned and unresolved in The Applicant. Plath’s narrator is a sort of salesman or woman addressing a potential groom. By the poem’s end, the groom’s persona merges with a potential bride’s. The poem’s opening line-“First, are you our sort of person” – could be read as an initiation test for a secret society.

Ted Hughes has written a poem ‘Wound’ which was broadcast in February in 1962. This poem is the continuation of conversation between Plath and Hughes. It reflects and casual condition of the fifty and last century. The applicant gives her a nightmare world of nightmare marriage. The marriage of Ted and Plath performed in 1956 went quite smoothly three or four years but the marriage relations were strained when Ted began to love another woman. Ted has become a renowned poet of England and he was honoured as a poet laureate. The marriage of Plath and Ted was performed in London in 1956. In spite of love between two Ted’s relatives. Ted was a student of archaeology while Plath was devoted to mythical and occult activity. Both of them spent two or three years in America quite happily in 1959. Both of them set forth on a cross-country tour and next year she gives birth to a son and daughter. Then they came back to England but their relations were strained. Their relations were so bad that they were separated and began to live separately. The shock of the separation was so deep that she committed suicide and the dissatisfaction reflected in the poem ‘The Applicant‘. Thus this poem throws much light on the relationship between Sylvia Plath and Ted.

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The speaker in the poem is a person who has some authority to put questions to the applicant and this person appeared in the very beginning of the poem. The first stanza of the poem begins by a question.

“First, are you our sort of a person?

Do you wear

A glass eye, false teeth or a crutch

A brace or a hook

Rubber breasts or a rubber crotch.

Stitches to show something’s missing? No, no ? Then

How can we give you a thing Stop crying.

Open your hand

Empty ? Empty, Here is hand.”

These stanzas have been explained by critics in the following way:

The abnormal would appear to have become the norm in this context, the desideratum, then, for selection to an employment. Not skill, merit or any other positive attribute, but only being “our sort of person” is the prerequisite for joining here. Moreover, one has to wear a “glass eye” (contact lens or just a simple lens), “false teeth” (dentures), or a “crutch” (to prop or support a lame or infirm person in walking), a “brace” (a clasp or a clamp, that holds parts together or in place), a “hook” (a curved or angular piece of metal or other hard substance for catching, pulling, holding, or suspending something), “rubber breasts” (artificial breasts) or a rubber crotch (the part of a pair of trousers, panties, or the like, formed by the joining of the two legs), or be able to show stitches on the body “to show something’s missing.”

The use of pronoun ‘it’ is for wife who is considered to be commercial commodity.

“To fill it and willing

To bring tea cup

and roll away headaches and

do whatever you tell it Will you marry it

It is guaranteed.

To thumb shut your eyes at the end

And dissolve of sorrow

We make new stock from the salt.

I notice you are stark naked

How about this suit-

Black and stiff, but not a bad fit

Will you marry it?

It is waterproof, shatter proof, proof,

Against fire and boms through the roof

Believe me, they’ll bury you in it.”

In the above stanza, the wife is addressing a husband that he will require the wife to fill his emptiness. She will be asked to prepare tea cups and serve them to him. She will have to do home chore then she asks, if the husband would marry such a wife. She thinks that husband is ready to marry her. The wife also asked her husband what type of suit he is wearing, he sings to be naked. The wife also gives warning that whole society is under the curse of war and bombardment.

In the next three stanzas the husband addresses his wife and says that her head is empty, this fact is well known to him. He asks the wife to come out of the room and tell what she thinks about the present society but he believes that after twenty five years she will be white and grey at present she can do any domestic duty.

In the last stanza the wife tells the husband that he has all qualities in him, he has an eye which gives him image and she asks at the end of the stanza, she puts the question if he will marry her.

The Applicant is the piece of beautiful poetic art of Sylvia Plath. There is no doubt that there is much ambiguity and conclusion in the poem. The reader has to be careful about the personality of speaker. In the beginning of the poem, it seems that the speaker of the poem in the authority who is interviewing the applicant but in the middle of the poem it is the wife (Sylvia Plath) who is putting questions to the husband. But critics agree that this poem is a dialogue between Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath.

The poem contains eight stanzas of five lines each without any rhyming scheme, it throws much light on the cultural aspect of the middle of 19th century. The commercial interest in the fifties and nineteenth century.

The Applicant may be less about marriage and more about the make-believe world of business-commerce-advertisement troika. It also seems to suggest that “desire” may itself be less a “real” or “natural” drive and more “cultural”, a language-made construct. Men as well as women are “applicants”, “targets” and victims in this logo-centric world, given to “creating” or manufacturing sliding signifiers of “desire”, desires that are, in fact, mutilated and unnatural”‘, “un-healthy”. The world of ad-mass, “Hidden Persuaders”, after all, “abhors a vacuum”, which it is its manifest destiny to “fill” with images. Ultimately, however, one cannot recall “wed” (marry) the world of “ad”; it is too unstable and discontinuous, always already afflicted with ‘infidelity”:

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