Poem Comparison

The Difference in Similarity “Lady Lazarus,” by Sylvia Plath and ” “The Waking” by Theodore Roethke are two poems that relate directly to the speaker. Although both poems share this similarity, the way in which both works or literature are constructed are vastly different. Plath uses visual imagery and poetical tercets to show the pain and suffering of the speaker in her poem, while Roethke uses the musical Villanelle and synesthesia to create his picture of the speaker’s inner thoughts and a sense of awakening.

When reading the poem “Lady Lazarus” for the first time, the subject matter can be a little ifficult to comprehend. The title of this poem and the speaker share the same name, ultimately making connections to the poet herself. Lady Lazarus begins by telling the reader that she has done “it” again. Whatever “it” is; the reader does not know. She is a thirty-year-old who compares to herself to a Holocaust victim while also telling the reader that she has nine lives, much like a cat. The reader figures out that “it” is dying but, like a cat, the speaker keeps returning to life.

Lady Lazarus tells the reader about the first two times that she almost died and how “dying is an art. ” She describes eath as theatrical as she’s possibly preforming her third death in front of a crowd at a circus. She again compares herself to a Holocaust victim as she imagines herself burning to death at concentration camp crematorium. At the end of the poem, she is resurrected for the third time and will “eat men like air” (line 84). In “The Waking,” much of the poem takes place inside the speaker’s mind.

The speaker begins to contemplate his own opening awareness to who he is and what he can know. The poem briefly shifts from the speaker’s mind to the “real” world to notice some of the natural organisms that surround this “going where I have to go. The speaker returns to his inner reckoning of greater power and fate. Imagery is an excellent way for a reader to read a poem through the five senses. It gives a more realistic feel to the work that is presented and can give better insight about the tonality of the work. Lady Lazarus” uses imagery to describe her pain that is comparable to the pain that the Jews experienced during the Holocaust. Visual imagery is used in lines 4-5 when she says “A sort of a walking miracle, my skin/Bright as a Nazi lampshade… ” this use of simile refers to how some Nazis used the skin of the deceased Jews as ampshades. Another use of visual imagery is seen on lines 8-9, as Lady Lazarus says “My face a featureless, fine/Jew linen. ” This metaphor relates Lady Lazarus to how the Nazis would raid the homes of the Jews and take all of their possessions, sometimes including linen.

The comparisons of the speaker to things that Nazis had possession of during the Holocaust makes us think that the speaker may feel that she is possessed by the Nazis. “The Waking” uses a form of imagery called synesthesia. This is a mixing of sensory experiences to paint a picture of the hybrid world of sleeping and waking. One example of synesthesia is in line 2, where the speaker says: “l feel my fate in what I cannot fear. ” What does fate actually feel like? Since it is not something that is classified as the common sense of feeling or touch, it may be used to describe a presence through an absence.

I believe this to explain how someone can teel something without actually knowing what it may be, such as that feeling when you know someone is staring at you. Another use of synesthesia arrives when the speaker says: “l hear my being dance from ear to ear” (line 5). This line describes the sharp sensitivity of his hearing. His hearing is so acute that he can hear himself dance around his own body. It seems as though his senses are highly sensitive and are firing in several directions in his own mind.

People hear themselves think, like myself, I think this is another excellent use of synesthesia because you aren’t hearing your thoughts literally but you still can hear them. “Lady Lazarus” is a poem that is made up of twenty-eight tercets. A tercet is a three-line stanza. These stanzas are mostly made up of short, choppy lines with a mix of enjambment and end stop lines that can been seen as an example in lines 22-24 when the speaker ays: “[This] is Number Three. (end stop)/ What a Trash (enjambment)/To annihilate each decade. (end stop).

When read aloud, the words move quickly and forcefully. It almost sounds like the speaker is spitting her words out to the reader in disgust. This could relate to her overall feelings of disgust throughout the poem. This poem also has use of perfect rhyme and slant rhyme. One instance of perfect rhyme happens in lines 83-84, where the words hair and air rhyme. An example of slant rhyme occurs in lines 71-72, where the words burn and concern sound rhythmical. Also, there is use n anaphora in “l do it so it feels like hell” (line 46) and ” I do it so it feels real” (line 47).

While these various kinds of repetitions of sounds occur all over the place in “Lady Lazarus,” they do not occur in a particular pattern. The rhymes have an off- kilter feel to them, and this allows the poem to be fast and free wheeling. The reader never knows when a rhyme or some other kind of repetition is going to happen next. I think it works to the feeling of the speaker very effectively because the speaker is in an erratic state of mind. “The Waking” is characterized as a Villanelle, which means n Italian word referring to a rustic song or dance.

Villanelles have five tercets (three- line stanzas) and one quatrain (a four-line stanza), for a total of nineteen lines in all. The rhyme scheme of the tercets is ABA, where the letter refers to the end rhyme of each line, while the quatrain is ABAA. The A rhyme does change throughout the poem. Line 7, for example, ends with a shift in rhyme: “you,” which does have an O in the word, though it has a long U sound to it. The reader receives more of this type of rhyme in lines and 10 and 12 with “how’ and “slow. While the rhyme is generally redictable, it does shift as the poem develops. That seems fitting in a poem where the speaker is describing an awakening. The change in rhyme scheme refers to the shift in the speaker from sleeping to awakening. By line 7, the speaker has shifted from what is going on in his mind to “God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,” (line 8). The speaker is talking about the nature that surrounds him rather than what is going on in his mind. A form like this has a musical tone to it rather than the choppy freewheeling “Lady Lazarus” poem.

What is interesting about this is that it akes the poem somewhat repetitive, much like the average every day song and how we see the line “going where I have to go’ repetitively. This Villanelle is, in a way, “going where it needs to go’ in relation to how this type of poem is constructed. “The Waking,” in terms of meter, has each line written in strongly pronounced iambic pentameter. An iamb is a two-syllable pair in which the second syllable is emphasized. This makes the poem a little easier to read and it gives the impression that the speaker is singing the words to the reader as opposed to the spitting image hat “Lady Lazarus” brings.

Sylvia Plath and Theodore Roethke use their own poetic styles to set the tone of the speakers in their poems. Plath uses visual imagery and short, choppy tercets to describe a woman who is so unhappy that she relates her despair to a Jewish person during the Holocaust. On the other hand, Roethke uses synesthesia and the musical form of a Villanelle to characterize the speaker’s awakening through his mind and the real world. Bibliography Baym, Nina, and Robert S. Levine. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton 2012. print.


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