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Sylvia Plath - The Moon and the Yew Tree

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Lauren Albiston

on 4 January 2013

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Transcript of Sylvia Plath - The Moon and the Yew Tree

The Moon and the Yew Tree Tone & Mood

The poem seems to describe the atmosphere that causes the Plath to feel empty and lost through her surroundings. This hence involves the comparison between the yew tree and the moon and also includes the presence of a church. The bleak descriptions of the surroundings show that Plath feels hopeless and lost. The moon is a feminine metaphor and in this case symbolizes the mother of Plath who she feels she is detached from. The yew tree symbolizes her father who only carries ‘the message of blackness’. Hence Plath feels that she has no sense of direction and sense of self. She also cannot bring herself to turn to God as ‘The Moon sees nothing of this.’ Hence she is lost and this causes her to preserve her wanting death, therefore alluding to the ‘blackness and silence.’
Plath uses bleak imagery to show how the surroundings impact her emotions and sense of self. This is also done by comparing beautiful things which are supposed to bring about hope but instead brings about hopelessness. For example, ‘the light’ which usually represents warmth and brightness is described as ‘cold’, lacking warmth and described as ‘planetary’ which seems to overwhelm her world and hence making her feel alone. Likewise, the persona feels lost as ‘The Moon is no door’ whereby the element of nature is depicted as having no opportunities, hope and guidance. This is ironic as the moon gives off light in the night, being a symbol of direction. Also, instead of seeing ‘holiness’ as a betterment of self, it is contrasted with ‘stiff’ indicating a lack of natural self.
In addition to that, Plath uses words related to an unwelcoming atmosphere. The trees are ‘black’, suggesting that darkness is overwhelming Plath’s ability to see things around her as signs of joy and beauty. Even the grasses are personified and are able to ‘unload their griefs’. It is as if everything around her is bringing her down, hence resulting in the sense of hopelessness that she feels. This is clearly seen in the last stanza whereby it is mentioned that ‘I have fallen a long way’. Plath feels upset over the things that have happened to her and she feels that there is no way for her to be happy again, hence ‘the blackness and silence.’ In other words, she has lost her sense of self Attitudes and Values
The lack of belief and guidance from her parents and also probably from God have led to her sense of hopelessness
It is as if the father is in control of the family, with the ‘incorrect’ message sent out to the persona, she preserves death and loses her sense of direction and it seems as if her values are that death is something that she accepts and isn’t necessarily scared of.
Plath also seems to have a negative view to religion as she is accepting of death so her attitude seems to appear that she doesn’t necessarily see the point in believing in God and religion as it can’t prevent death.
The poem also suggests a superficial bonding between the poet and her mother. This is depicted by the personification of ‘moon’ as her mother, distant and cold. Her mother is not someone she could connect to and escape to, from her predicaments (The moon is no door). The simile, “White as a knuckle” renders a creepy attribute to her mother. “the O-gape of complete despair” suggests lack of communication between the mother and the daughter. She feels that her mother ‘is not sweet like Mary’. She wants to ‘believe in tenderness’ and feel the gentle gaze of her mother. Themes

Religion- She suggests that religion can offer her no warmth when she writes “ over the cold pews”-line 23. This also shows Plath's state of mind at the time she wrote this poem.

Family- She uses the two objects of this poem the “moon” and the “yew tree” to show three members of her family and their role in her life and her feelings towards them. For example she writes “ the moon is no door” and “ the moon is my mother” , suggesting that her mother is not a way for her to escape her feelings like a mother should. She uses the Yew Tree to show her Father and her Husband , when she writes “the trees of the mind are black” and “ the tree points upwards”. This suggests that her thoughts about these two men are black , as the opening stanza states that “this is the light of the mind”. It also shows how her Husband is in the way and blocking her from feeling any better than she does in this poem. She also shows how her Husband is not important to her when she writes “yew tree”. In the title of the poem, the Yew Tree is correctly given a capital, whereas in the last line of the poem , it is written entirely in lower case , suggesting unimportance.

Death- She expresses her feelings of death when she writes “ the message of the Yew Tree is blackness, blackness and silence”. This links with how she feels her husband is in the way , suggesting that she feels her only way of piece is through death. This contextually relates to her earlier life and her attempts at suicide and in a way, ironically foreshadows her own death in 1964.
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