Free “Lady Lazarus” And “Barbie Doll” Literature Review Examples

January 22, 2022 by Essay Writer

Sylvia Plath and Marge Piercy can be considered as two outstanding feminist American writers. Plath is famous as a poet, novelist and short story writer who married the famous poet, Ted Hughes. She is the commencer of the conventional poetry and has composed many poems during her life time. Piercy is the novelist and the social campaigner who can be regarded as a significant female voice. “Lady Lazarus” and “Barbie Doll” are the two exceptional poems written by Sylvia Plath and Marge Piercy respectively.
“Lady Lazarus”, taken from the collection of poems Ariel, is famously known as the Holocaust poem that describes the speaker’s repression with the World War II Nazi Germany insinuations and descriptions. The poet presents us with her paradoxical ambiguity as to how to define herself and also to how to defend herself. The poem’s disturbing self- dramatization is made apparent as the poet attempts to reorganize her past in retrospect and to articulate a persuasive and convincing prophesy about her future. There is female persona’s assumption of the anguish and troubles of the concentration camp inhabitants as an appropriate comparison for the domestic tragedy of a failed marriage.
The speaker in the poem gets the unique opportunity to be born again after death and she is compared to the phoenix, the liberal spirit who is presented as a virtuous, simple and quick-witted woman. This poem can be taken as the best example of Plath’s irony. Plath excellently blends the wonder of Lazarus, the legend of the phoenix, the frenzy of the circus, and the disgust of the holocaust to oracle for herself a raging conquest over her spirits of gaudiness and oppression. Susan Van Dyne points out:
In her revisions, Plath substitutes epithets that would seem to entitle him to enviable positions of power and dominance: “Herr Professor,” “Herr Doktor,” “Herr Enemy,” “Herr God,” “Herr Lucifer.” Yet naming these attributes or roles served to clarify for the poet what her developing heroine lacked, and what Lady Lazarus would need to claim as her own in order to survive. In the process of negative definition which organizes the poem, the association of the male figure with cruelty and authority yields a composite projection of what the speaker both fears and desires. In reworking the image of the male figure, the worksheets show a movement from a highly conflicted fusion with an intimate antagonist toward a defiant separation from stylized, archetypal representations of male authority. In working out these changes, Plath is able to eliminate the wordiness of threats such as “we are not done with each other” and “I am very dangerous when it comes to you” in favor of more overt intimidation and manipulation of her audience (404).
In many respects, the poem can be perceived as a dark, complicated and brutal poem that has been substance to the surfeit of literary censure since its publication. It also presents Plath’s suicidal attempts and compulsions. The phrase “has done it again” refers to the repeated attempt made by the poet to commit suicide for the third time. Her escape from death is taken as a failure while she believes that she will attain completion through escaping her body. Death is exemplified as an art and the speaker likes to embrace death. The poet suffuses the personal misery, anguish and shared affliction in the poem and the poem seems to establish an upsetting stiffness between the soberness of the experience manifested and the treacherously guileless and simple form of the poem. “Dying/is an art, like everything else. /I do it exceptionally well” demonstrates the suicidal attempts made by the speaker and she tries to make confessions through her works which she reflects as the best choice to enter into and illustrate inclusive leitmotifs and topics. Susan Van Dyne asserts:
In her last utterance, the speaker claims to have moved outside the orbit of male dominance altogether. But has she? Her efforts to heal the split, to articulate a radical integrity, are noticeably different from the closing visions of other October poems that predict the rebirth of a heroine. In “Ariel” the self-absorbed drive of the speaker is undeniably ecstatic even though it may spell the extinction of the individual self. In “Stings” the rising queen is autonomous; she is liberated from the “stingless dead men” who appear in the drafts but who are unmentioned in the final poem. The close of “Lady Lazarus” is more frightening in its explicit urge for revenge and more fearful in its need for it. In Plath’s incandescent image, the phoenix rises in rage. The men that she eats like air fuel that final fire (410).
She brings in strange, yet credible resemblances between her dilemmas and torments with the tortured Jews when she says: “A sort of walking miracle, my skin/ Bright as a Nazi lampshade,/My right foot/A paperweight,/My face a featureless, fine/Jew linen.” It is definitely a poem of social condemnation with a strong didactic shade, and a work of art which discloses great meticulous and rational competence.
“Barbie Doll” is the powerful poem by the famous feminist poet, Marge Piercy, who mainly composes her poems to portray the predicament of women in the contemporary society. The image of Barbie Doll brings into our mind the perfectly beautiful toy girl with the unrealistic blonde hair, shape, and other belongings. The girl in the poem is also born like a Barbie doll, but fails to get contentment in her life as she lives for others and leads her life according to the society’s decision and resolution.
Piercy’s poetic language is rich, powerful and ironic that cast shadows in to the gender discrimination of the society. The girls are bestowed with the toys like dolls, kitchen sets like “miniature stoves and irons” that define the roles to be played by women and the girls are groomed in such a way as to be perfect in these tasks, right from the childhood days. The girl is even gifted with cherry colored lipsticks that hint at the society’s expectation about her to look good to be accepted by them. The cherry color intends to enhance the sexuality of the girl and manages to conceal the flaws on her face. The “magic of puberty” hints at the onset of the menstrual cycle that also marks the transition of her body. But she encounters severe criticisms from her classmates for her big nose and fat legs. And the girl starts looking at herself and begins to dislike her appearance. Robert Perrin comments:
The second stanza provides contrast that students usually notice. The girl in her early teen- age years is described in robust terms: “She was healthy, tested intelligent, / possessed strong arms and back” (7-8). These positive descriptions especially” strong arms and back,” counter many of the limiting descriptions of girls, providing part of the countermovement of this poem. However, those aggressively positive characteristics are balanced by a grim yet simple line: “She went to and fro apologizing” (10). Students do not miss the sadly rhythmic emphasis that “to and fro” provides, nor do they miss or misunderstand the depressing cycle that is described in these words. And, once again, students can freely share their experiences and observations (83).
The third stanza enlists many things that the girl needs to follow so as to maintain a perfect and apt life in the society. “She was advised to play coy/ exhorted to come on hearty/ exercise, diet, smile and wheedle.” The next lines show that the girl finds it terrible to live in a society that controls and dominates her that she finally decides to end her life, ‘so she cut off her nose and her legs.’ The act of killing suggests the failure of the girl. The final stanza presents the girl’s dead body and the poet sceptically describes her ‘perfect nose.’ The casket in which she is kept is a huge Barbie box which is her coffin. She looks appealing and attractive without life as she is flaunt with make-up and even has a new nose. She looks like a different person and that is what the society wants. The poet’s sarcastic last lines- ‘ to every woman a happy ending’ show how the society weakens a woman’s thinking by instilling in her the idea that in order to have a happy ending, women have to shape themselves into a perfect figure like a Barbie Doll both in looks and in behaviour. The poem is exactly like an allegory that clarifies and cautions us that we should not let timidities and hesitancies to develop into a fascination or a malady that ultimately leads to our own fatal end.


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