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"The Colossus" Analysis

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william lamere

on 12 May 2014

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Transcript of "The Colossus" Analysis

"The Colossus"
By: Sylvia Plath
Presentation by: Bill LaMere and Tiffany Peterson

Structure: Form
There are 30 lines, 6 stanzas, and 5 lines to each stanza.
Each line is short and effective to create an emphasis
Free verse was used to make it seem more real and relate able to people
Structure: Punctuation
Enjambment is used to create audible interest for the reader
The short line stanzas make the enjambment effective
Pauses or breaks (caesura) would make the free verse lack the urgent tone Plath conveys
Structure: Title
"Cut" is self-explanatory and blatant
She not only cut herself, but she wanted the title to emphasis her indecency, and savageness through self-infliction
Lines 1-2

I shall never get you put together entirely,
Pieced, glued, and properly jointed.
Sylvia starts off by speaking to an unknown person who she's seemingly trying to put back together.
The reader can infer that she is talking about piecing a giant statue back together, since this poem is titled "The Colossus."
The Colossus was a giant statue that once stood in the harbor of the ancient city of Rhodes.
The reader can also notice that the she seems to be admitting being defeated. She's sure she'll "never" get the job done.
Words like "pieced" and "glued" also point toward the image of someone trying to put together something that has been shattered.
When the she talks about making sure it's "properly jointed," the reader can think of broken elbows and knees.

Lines 3-5

Mule-bray, pig-grunt and bawdy cackles
Proceed from your great lips.
It's worse than a barnyard.

She makes up her own words like "mule-bray" and "pig-grunt". This brings to mind both the sounds that animals make as well as the image of the animals themselves.
She also says, "It's worse than a barnyard," but not that it is one.
Whatever is going on inside the statue's mouth, it sounds like a barnyard, and the she does not seem to enjoy it.
Examples of onomatopoeia in line 3, “bray”, “grunt” and “cackles.
Her devotion for the colossus, and how she depreciates it shows irony because she admires it so much yet hates it.
Sensory images are shown with words like "Mule-bray", "pig-grunt", and "bawdy
cackles", and imagery is shown by comparing it to being "worse than a barnyard".
Lines 6-10

Perhaps you consider yourself an oracle,
Mouthpiece of the dead, or of some god or other.
Thirty years now I have labored
To dredge the silt from your throat.
I am none the wiser.
In these lines, she seems to be making fun of the fallen statue.
She also refers to an "oracle," which is an allusion to the Oracle of Delphi, which was a major center of prophecy in the ancient world.
The statue believes that it's just as worthy and important as this ancient oracle, but really it's has nothing to say.
Sylvia continues to mock on the statue's speaking abilities by describing its throat as being full of "silt."
This is were an internal conflict occurs. She is mocking the statue,but she's also "labored" for "thirty years" to try and clear out its silty throat.
Even though she resents it, she must care for it deeply in some way.


Lines 11-15

Scaling little ladders with glue pots and pails of Lysol
I crawl like an ant in mourning
Over the weedy acres of your brow
To mend the immense skull-plates and clear
The bald, white tumuli of your eyes.
In the first line the she again describes herself as the caretaker of the statue. The reference to "glue pots" goes back to line 2, where she talked about trying to glue it back together again.
By describing herself as an ant, Sylvia gives the reader a sense of how small she feels as she crawls around the remains of the huge statue.
The use of the word "mourning" here gives the reader the sense that she is grieving a great loss.
"Over the weedy acres of your brow" gives the reader a sense of time
if there are weeds growing in the "brow"
Intense death imagery here with the word "skull-plates," which are slabs of bone that make up the human skull.
Also, she calls the eyes of the statue "tumuli." Tumuli are burial mounds.


Lines 16-18

A blue sky out of the Oresteia
Arches above us. O father, all by yourself
You are pithy and historical as the Roman Forum.

She addresses the statue as "father" here, so the reader assumes that it symbolizes her dad. The previous lines about death, makes the reader think that the speaker's father is dead.
The Oresteia was Aeschylus's tragic trilogy, specifically were Electra mourns her murdered father, Agamemnon, in The Libation Bearers, the second play of the trilogy.
She references another ancient structure, the Roman Forum, which today is a ruin.
She describes the Forum as "historical," and "pithy". "Pithy" is usually used to describe a statement that clearifies and gets straight to the point.
The image of this ruined Forum-Colossus shows the way she feels about her dead father.

Lines 19-20

I open my lunch on a hill of black cypress.
Your fluted bones and acanthine hair are littered
She takes a break from her daily caretaker duties and thinks the ruins on "a hill of black cypress."
The mention of the color black puts the reader in a funereal mindset.
She then returns to the imagery of the ruined Forum by describing the ruined statue's "fluted bones and acanthine hair."
Both "fluted" and "acanthine" describe the kind of ancient columns found in the Forum.
The mention of bones also reminds the reader of the skeleton of the father who's dead.

Line 21-23

In their old anarchy to the horizon-line.
It would take more than a lightning-stroke
To create such a ruin.

This shows how massively devastating the loss of the speaker's father was for her.
The use of the "old anarchy" not only shows the image of the chaotic ruin around Sylvia, but also gives the reader a sense of just how long it's been there.
The reader is reminded that this is a pain that the she has been dealing with for a while.
Sylvia states that it was "more than a lightening stroke". It could have been a reference to the earthquake, which took down the original Colossus of Rhodes or it Could be a reference to nuclear weapons, which were still new to the world when she wrote the poem.
Lines 24-25

Nights, I squat in the cornucopia
Of your left ear, out of the wind,
Sylvia has taken us through her day of work and now the reader sees how she spends her nights in the ear (the "cornucopia").
The cornucopia is usually used as a symbol of thriving life, so its interesting that she uses it in a poem that's so focused on ruin and death.
Irony is shown through the use of the cornucopia as something good while the poem is dark.

Lines 26-28

Counting the red stars and those of plum-color.
The sun rises under the pillar of your tongue.
My hours are married to shadow.
She now tells the reader that she spends all her nights counting "red stars" and also "plum" colored ones.
Next she describes the sun rising from under the "tongue" of the statue. The reader could then infer that the red and purple stars could possibly be a reference to taste buds.
Even though the sun is rising, the speaker is still focused on darkness. She even states that she's "married" to it.
This could be a reference to the way she feels forever bound by the depression caused by the death of her father.
She chooses to say that her "hours" are married. This gets across the awful feeling of time slowly, inching by.

Lines 29-30

No longer do I listen for the scrape of a keel
On the blank stones of the landing.
The speaker chooses to end with imagery about boats.
A keel is that ridge that runs along the bottom of some kinds of boats. "Listening to the scrape of a keen seems to imply that a boat has returned to shore.
The stones are blank, though, without any decoration or importance. This shows the reader that she has not stopped waiting for her father to return home.
She's unable to leave these ruins. She knows he'll never come, yet she still waits.
She began the poem by telling him that she'll never be able to put him back together, but every day of her life that's what she spends her time trying to do.
The speaker is trapped in the ruins of what he was.
http://www.shvoong.com/books/poetry/2070441-abstract-colossus-sylvia-plath/


http://www.eliteskills.com/analysis_poetry/The_Colossus_by_Sylvia_Plath_analysis.php
Bibliography
I shall never get you put together entirely,
Pieced, glued, and properly jointed.
Mule-bray, pig-grunt and bawdy cackles
Proceed from your great lips.
It's worse than a barnyard.

Perhaps you consider yourself an oracle,
Mouthpiece of the dead, or of some god or other.
Thirty years now I have labored
To dredge the silt from your throat.
I am none the wiser.

Scaling little ladders with glue pots and pails of Lysol
I crawl like an ant in mourning
Over the weedy acres of your brow
To mend the immense skull-plates and clear
The bald, white tumuli of your eyes.


A blue sky out of the Oresteia
Arches above us. O father, all by yourself
You are pithy and historical as the Roman Forum.
I open my lunch on a hill of black cypress.
Your fluted bones and acanthine hair are littered

In their old anarchy to the horizon-line.
It would take more than a lightning-stroke
To create such a ruin.
Nights, I squat in the cornucopia
Of your left ear, out of the wind,

Counting the red stars and those of plum-color.
The sun rises under the pillar of your tongue.
My hours are married to shadow.
No longer do I listen for the scrape of a keel
On the blank stones of the landing.
Questions:

Why do you think she uses such strange word choice?
What do you think free verse is used?
Who is the speaker of the poem?
What two things do you think the speaker is talking about?
Full transcript