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Sylvia Plath: Lady Lazarus (Ariel)

             The poem "Lady Lazarus" written by Plath is a poem boasting of the poet's ability to survive accidents and suicide attempts. It combines the biblical story of Lazarus with horrifying images of the Nazi concentration camps.
             The poem is one of 28 stanzas of 3 lines each. Its opening is done in a casual tone and gives off an ironic sense of achievement as the poet comes back triumphant over her ability to survive death. Plath sees herself as "a sort of walking miracle", drawing parallel with Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead in the Bible, John 11. Plath sees herself as the female Lazarus, who has been raised from the dead 3 times and hence the miracle. Like the sense of miracle, Plath sees her deaths like Lazarus's for they are not normal sort of deaths.
             Plath then draws in the atrocities of the Holocaust by referring to an appalling fact that had emerged from the trials of the Nazi war criminals, was that a concentration camp commandant had lampshades made of human skin. This brings about the deep sense of suffering that the Jews had gone through, probably alluding to her own sense of suffering within. Her "right foot a paperweight", signifying inertia and the inability to move. "My face a featureless, fine Jew linen", Plath then almost immediately plunges into holocaust imagery once again, revealing the starkest and most vivid of the lot used in her other poems. "Peel off the napkin" could signify rebirth for when the corpse of Lazarus was "bound head and foot with graveclothes: and his face was about with a napkin" (John 11:44), therefore peeling off the napkin can possibly mean that he was alive once again. Plath seems to state that the initial stage right after her rebirth is a scary sight to behold "O my enemy. Do I terrify?", yet it is only temporary and "will vanish in a day".
             With the use of such cold and harsh imageries, Plath's comment that she is "like a cat" and has "nine times to die" comes across as humourous and almost childlike.

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