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'The Rival' by Sylvia Plath, Analysis

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Laura Richter

on 26 March 2014

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Transcript of 'The Rival' by Sylvia Plath, Analysis

Laura Richter
The Rival by Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath
1930 her father became increasingly ill, however he refused to seek medical care. In 1940 he passed away
"I'll never speak to God again."
She married Ted Hughes in 1956
two children, Frieda and Nicholas
suffered from depression for a long time, in 1963 she committed suicide
The Rival
Written on 21st of January, 1962
(one year before she died)
Gloomy yet powerful, emotions
Plath is describing her rival
deceitful, exploiting, and destructive
referring to him/her as ‘you’
Consists of 4 stanzas
Not an obvious rhyme pattern

: extended metaphor comparing the Rival to the moon.
: 'the moon smiled'
: 'great light borrowers'
'Ticking your fingers on the marble table, looking for cigarettes', relates to
of lifelessness (marble= stone)
: loving regularity
colour symbolism:
white = cold, lifeless, dull, harsch
The Title
Context and Background Information
Rival: enemy, competitor, opponent, challenger
“A person or thing competing with another for the same objective or superiority in the same field of activity”
evil, manipulative
Poem about two people competing:
Plath and her husband? Plath and her mother?
Who is the poem addressed to?
Her mother, Aurelia Schober?
Her husband, Ted Hughes?
Assia Wevill?
Ted Hughes?
Hughes abandoned her for an another woman
self-destruction imagery took over of Plath's work
''Dying / is an art, like everything else. / I do it exceptionally well.'' ('Lady Lazarus').
reason for her death?
Rival= husband: cheating, lying, unfaithful.?
she was trying to be a successful mother
had high expectations from her daughter
looking for perfection in her
pushing her to suceed
their relationship was often filled with hatred
rival= mother: critical, harsh?
Aurilia Schober?
Assia Wevill?
German-born, sophisticated, film-star looks
Hughes mistress
"Plath is beautifully expressing her resentful regard of the woman who stole her husband's heart. "
Rival= Assia Wevill: lying, stealing her man, not trustworthy
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, abuses 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.
Relationships with parental figures
Fear of failure
imagery is also found in “
”, where she states the relationship to be
, showing her bitter resentment towards her father

the destruction of the relationship is portrayed through the use of
poisonous imagery
, such as “cigarettes”, and “carbon monoxide”, showing how the relationship is “annihilating”

defines him/her through her use of words.
A man? She feminizes the masculinity through the use of feminine pronouns such as “woman”, “she” and “her”. she empowers herself therefore showing her control
(does not appreciate the way she is being treated)
We don't know who the poem is addressed to
clearly shows how unhappy she was with her whole life situation
portrays the
conflicting feelings about relationships
showing the
between wanting to break free of the relationship, but the inability to do so

'I have always been scared of you (...)'
'Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.'

'There is nothing between us.'
Now they want to make a film
For anyone lacking the ability
To imagine the body, head in oven,
Orphaning children

[...] they think
I should give them my mother's words
To fill the mouth of their monster,
Their Sylvia Suicide Doll
My Mother
Full transcript