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"Spinster" Poem Analysis

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Emily Coccia

on 17 March 2011

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Transcript of "Spinster" Poem Analysis

"Spinster"
Sylvia Plath Literal Meaning On an April day, a girl was walking with a boy and suddenly noticed the birds loudly chirping and leaves everywehere She notices that the boy she is walking with is gesturing wildly and not walking perfectly straight or evenely. She is struck by the disorderly nature of the season. The girl longs for the order of winter to return with its cold disciplined manner. She also wishes for this steadfastness and obvious sentiment to be present in her heart and emotions. She recognizes the potential the season (spring) has to destroy her sense of reason and rationality and thus makes the conscious choice to withdraw from it. She goes home and creates a barricade around her house so as to keep out the weather and the season in addition to men who try to enter by force or by love. Extended
Metahpor MEN = SPRING Characteristics:
Irregular
Litter
Unblalance
Uneven
Rank wilderness
Disarray
Sloven
Unruly
Vulgar motley
Bedlam Lack of control Caused by men and allowing their disorder to enter her life
"Let idiots / Reel giddy in bedlam spring: / She withdrew neatly" Conveys idea of "out of control" Conveys a deliberate and precise air to her actions; conscious choice; removing herself from the situation Chaos! Contrast to:
WINTER Characteristics:
Scrupulously austere
Order
White and black
Ice and rock
Within border
Frosty discipline
Exact Negative
Diction Conveys a frustration with and distaste for men
Sees them as unruly and uncontrollable
Also sees in them the potential to evoke those characteristics in her! Lines 19-21
"...a burgeoning / Unruly enough to pitch her five queenly wits / Into vulgar motley" This is why she sees the need to make the choice to withdraw herself from men Both show a natural form of contrast, which she views as a positive Need for control over all aspects of life
Sees no need for uncontrollable outburts
Wants measured emotions and choices War Diction Barricade of barb and check
Mutinous
Insurgent
Curse, fist, threat
Sees men as a threat to her personally
They bring chaos and bring out disorder in her life, namely, in her emotions Now this particular girl
During a ceremonious April walk
With her latest suitor
Found herself, of a sudden, intolerably struck
By the birds' irregular babel
And the leaves' litter.

By this tumult afflicted, she
Observed her lover's gestures unbalance the air,
His gait stray uneven
Through a rank wilderness of fern and flower.
She judged petals in disarray,
The whole season, sloven.

How she longed for winter then!—--
Scrupulously austere in its order
Of white and black
Ice and rock each sentiment within border,
And heart's frosty discipline
Exact as a snowflake.

But here —-- a burgeoning
Unruly enough to pitch her five queenly wits
Into vulgar motley--
—A treason not to be borne. Let idiots
Reel giddy in bedlam spring:
She withdrew neatly.

And round her house she set
Such a barricade of barb and check
Against mutinous weather
As no mere insurgent man could hope to break
With curse, fist, threat
Or love, either. Surprise #1! As readers, we traditionally associate spring with birth and positivity, but here, it is presented as a season of "bedlam," chaos, and disorder Surprise #3! Final two lines of poem:
"With curse, fist, threat
Or love, either" First three all seem very negative.
We are surprised to see love listed with these All listed as things that she must barricade herself against, things that are trying to invade her home and self. In actuality, this does make sense then
-Love would infiltrate her heart, throwing her emotions into a state of bedlam, as she is now controlled by something outside of herself Based on stanza 3, we know she longs for "sentiment within border" and thus recongize why she does not view love and its powerful emotional pull as positive Punctuation Mainly commas, periods, semicolons, and dashes Oddly enough, the stanza about winter has the only exclamation point, even though it is about emotional control and steadiness Conveys contrast and a sense of departure from what is expected (reflected in the rest of the poem too) Could be showing how excited speaker is to regain control as well; her enthusiasm springs from a genuine desire for control and stability She does not need a man for her excitement and emotions What is the poem's message/purpose? With love comes the emotional baggage and instability that accompany dependence on another human who is, by his nature, an emotional, changing being This change and disorder, while natural (as evidenced through its appearance in the seasons) can be avoided and prevented This avoidance comes at a cost though; to achieve emotional independence and exact control, we must sacrifice the relationships in our lives and seal ourselves in a cold, calculated self-made isolation (like winter) Is it worth it? Frequent use of enjambment shows a form of chaos and disorder, characteristic of men and of spring Aloneness, or spinsterhood, traditionally thought of as a negative, is presented in a positive light, as an active choice Surprise #2! Comfortable sweatsuit and easy-access fanny pack How fully does the poem accomplish its purpose? The poem is very effective in giving the reader a new perspective of spinsterhood POSITIVES: The allegorical correlation between men and spring and solitide and winter is very clear The poem's message is reinforced through the use of negative diction with regard to spring; strict and disciplined diction with regard to winter; and war diction with regard to the advances of men The use of surprises and unexpected conclusions makes the message jump out more Even the punctuation helps prove her point NEGATIVES: Fails to show the consequences of a life of spinsterhood Although the reader may now understand that there is a choice, she still does not know what will spring from her choice Therefore, it seems unlikely that the type of reader to whom Plath is appealing (one who strives for control in all aspects of her life) would choose this path since she does not know what might happen if she does How important is the poem's purpose? The poem's purpose is important in its role of refuting ideas that have been perpetuated by the media The idea that a woman needs a man to be happy and to lead a fulfilled life is proved wrong In today's society, being single is often seen as an unfortunate condition that no one would wish for BUT The poem depicts the single lifestyle as a choice made freely for the betterment of the woman Think crazy cat ladies with no lives The woman is being allowed to live her life unconstrained by men with the deliberate sensibility of emotions that she craves This purpose is positive especially for those reading the poem who are single and might be feeling bad about themselves due to society However, the poem's purpose could also be looked upon as negative in that it shows only one perspective Love is depicted as an entirely negative thing that should be baricaded out like some type of attacker
Doesn't describe any type of benefits to sharing a life with another person BUT Since society's message is so strong and so well-known and widely accepted, the poem's lack of an alternate perspective seems permissable; it's not that the reader will have no clue that love could be looked upon as a positive Emily Coccia
AP English Period 2
Ms. Kramer
17 March 2011 Works Cited
Think Liz Lemon from the Valentine's Day episode of 30 Rock in which she calls herself, "The Spinster" "I am making my graceful transition into spinsterhood. I have adopted this cat and named her Emily Dickinson." Although it is being presented as Liz' choice (seems positve), it is still shown as a negative: she spent her honeymoon money on a cemetary plot and joined the book club at the local senior citizen's center... "It's Never Too Late for Now." 30 Rock.
NBC, New York. 17 Feb. 2011. Internet streaming (Hulu). Prezi won't let me do a hanging indent. Nor will it let me italicize. Also, the first quotation mark always goes backwards. THE END!
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