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The Rival

sylvia plath
by

angela haulter

on 17 November 2012

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Transcript of The Rival

The Rival The speaker is describing someone (not stated), saying they are beautiful and innocent but yet destructive and influential/impactful.
The speaker is describing this person, “this rival” as evil and manipulative, saying she uses a gift she has for the cause of mischief.
Referring back to the first stanza when the speaker states her rival resembles the moon, here the speaker refers to the rival as a “her” indicating she is a female and saying she “abases” her subjects too meaning that even though this person looks innocent they still use their power against people to put them down. The speaker says although the rival is loving she is also deadly like a poisonous gas.
In the last stanza the speaker implies that the rival is far away in a different continent “Africa” but still no day is safe. Paraphrase Plath begins by comparing her “rival” to the moon, as she possess a darkness and destructive power, but also a beauty. When Plath writes, “Both of you are great light borrowers,” she is implying her rival sucks the life out of her as the moon takes light from the sun.
In the second stanza, Plath describes the ability of the rival to make everything dull and lifeless like stone in a mausoleum. The rival in confident, as she smokes because she is “spiteful” not because of nervousness or anxiety. The rival also seeks the final word, to leave her mark on Plath.
Then she references the rivals abusiveness, in her annihilating words. The rivals expression of dissatisfaction, arriving in letters, try to help solve Plath’s issues, but rather are poisonous and deadly like carbon monoxide.
In the final, 2 line stanza, Plath states the rival is in Africa, and her knowledge of such makes us believe she is familiar to the rival. Based on our analysis, the rival is her mother. There is a beauty in the motherly figure, but at the same time her attempts to be a successful mother has lead her to be incredibly critical of Plath in a way that sucks the life from Plath and disrupts her sense of self-satisfaction. We also learned in research this relationship was often filled with hatred which helps support this argument. Connotation “The Rival”
“A person or thing competing with another for the same objective or for superiority in the same field of activity.”
This is a poem that could possibly be about two people in completion with each other, most likely Silvia Plath being the speaker and competing for her husband? Title Plath’s attitude in this poem is resentful. She is incredibly resentful toward her “rival” mother. She does not appreciate the criticism and darkness of her mother.
Though she has a reasonable reason to be resentful, she is also being hypocritical. She is criticizing her, but at the same time she is being very critical of her mother, expressing her own dissatisfaction. Attitude Sylvia speaks about this rival as if it were a nonhuman. She is disgusted and angered at this rival. She compares her rival to Medusa and the moon. Both which are manipulative and deceiving.
She saw her mom as a rival. She felt like she didn’t live up to her mothers expectations.
Sylvia often said she hated her mother. Title Anger with her mother

Fear of failure Theme Conceit: The poem is an extended metaphor comparing Aurelia Plath, Sylvia’s mother, to the moon. This serves to emphasize the distance in the mother/daughter relationship, and the cold hardness with which Sylvia regarded her mother.
Personification: (“moon smiled”) relates moon to Aurelia
Imagery: (“great light borrowers”) implies that Sylvia’s mother takes the life from her just as the moon takes the light from the sun. It can also be a play on the name Aurelia, which means golden.
Syntax: (“Her O-mouth grieves at the world, yours is unaffected”) Comma offers separation that distinguishes the moon from the subject making Sylvia’s mother appear colder and harsher than the moon.
Allusion: (“And your first gift is making stone out of everything”) Alludes to Medusa and in this way compares Sylvia’s mother to something cold and sinister. Sylvia often said that her mother was not quite human.
Syntax: (“I wake to a mausoleum, you are here”) Term mausoleum references death and comma sets apart the fact that Aurelia is there, emphasizing her coldness as she is present in a place of death.
Imagery: (“Ticking your fingers on the marble table, looking for cigarettes”) Conveys Aurelia feeling impatient with Sylvia, again drawing attention to the stone comparison with the mention of a marble table.
Word Play: (“And dying to say something unanswerable”) Phrase emphasizes the way Aurelia is suppressing Sylvia.
Metaphor: (“The moon, too, abases her subjects,/But in the daytime she is ridiculous”) Part of conceit; demonstrates the way Sylvia’s mother is always there to point out the bad (night), but has nothing to say about the good (day). Term ridiculous could be a play on the word ridicule to exemplify the way Sylvia feels tormented by her mother.
Sarcasm: (“loving regularity”) denotes the way Aurelia plagued Sylvia with criticism even from afar, which she was known to do by sending her letters almost daily while Sylvia was in England.
Archetype: (“White”) Again describing Aurelia as cold towards her daughter.
Simile: (“expansive as carbon monoxide”) Describing Aurelia’s letters of criticism as highly oppressive and deadly; Sylvia felt suffocated by her mother.
Syntax: (“No day is safe from news of you,/ Walking about in Africa maybe, but thinking of me.”) Commas show separation between Aurelia and Sylvia. Convey how Sylvia feels that her mother could be anywhere in the world and no matter the distance, she will be an ever-present tormentor in her life. Devices “Of something beautiful, but annihilating”: Separates Aurelia from the good aspects of the comparison of her to the moon.
1st stanza break: Shift form metaphorical comparison of Aurelia to a more realistic and complete description of her.
2nd stanza break: Shift back to metaphorical comparison.
3rd stanza break: Shift from metaphorical description back to more literal description
“Walking about in Africa maybe, but thinking of me”: Phrase begins by placing a physical distance between Aurelia and Sylvia but shifts to place a negative link between then regardless of the distance. Shifts If the moon smiled, she would resemble you.
You leave the same impression
Of something beautiful, but annihilating.
Both of you are great light borrowers.
Her O-mouth grieves at the world; yours is unaffected,

And your first gift is making stone out of everything.
I wake to a mausoleum; you are here,
Ticking your fingers on the marble table, looking for cigarettes,
Spiteful as a woman, but not so nervous,
And dying to say something unanswerable.

The moon, too, abases her subjects,
But in the daytime she is ridiculous.
Your dissatisfactions, on the other hand,
Arrive through the mailslot with loving regularity,
White and blank, expansive as carbon monoxide.

No day is safe from news of you,Walking about in Africa maybe, but thinking of me. “The Rival”
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