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Stillborn by Sylvia Plath
Transcript of Stillborn by Sylvia Plath
In "Stillborn", Sylvia Plath compares her poetry to a stillborn child through the use of extended metaphor and imagery. This comparison reflects Plath's desire for perfection and portrays how she values her poetry as much as a child.
Definitions of Odd Words
"O" (6): O has an organic shape, like a woman's pregnant stomach.
"...pickling fluid!" (8): Pickling fluid is a reference to formaldehyde, the liquid that is used to preserve dead organisms, like stillborn babies.
Tone & Sound Devices
Repetition of "S" sounds in the second stanza: "sit so nicely", "smile and smile and smile and smile", "still the lungs... won't start", (8, 9, 10).
Repetition of "th" sounds throughout the poem: "These", "They", "Their", "mother-love", (1, 2, 3, 5).
Gallows Humor: humor that is about a serious or difficult topic, such as death or, in this case, a stillborn child.
"If they missed out on walking about like people/ It wasn't for any lack of mother-love." (4, 5).
Lines like these create the gallows humor throughout the poem, which helps establish the satirical and mocking tone.
Irony & Figurative Language
The irony of the poem is that Plath is criticizing herself and her poetry so harshly, but "Stillborn" is one of her most successful and famous poems.
Extended Metaphor: the whole poem "Stillborn" is an extended metaphor comparing Plath's uninspired or unsuccessful poems to stillborn children.
"They are not pigs, they are not even fish,/Though they have a piggy and a fishy air," (11, 12)
The fish and pig simile compares fish and pigs to stillborn children and her poetry.
The fish and pig simile evokes images of rotten, slippery, grimy bodies, connotations of a stillborn child. The simile ultimately connects rotten, dead bodies to rotten, dead poems.
A message from Plath...