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I am vertical by Sylvia Plath

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Erik Melander

on 21 August 2013

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Transcript of I am vertical by Sylvia Plath

I am vertical by Sylvia Plath
But I would rather be horizontal.
I am not a tree with my root in the soil
Sucking up minerals and motherly love
So that each March I may gleam into leaf,
Nor am I the beauty of a garden bed
Attracting my share of Ahs and spectacularly painted,
Unknowing I must soon unpetal.
Compared with me, a tree is immortal
And a flower-head not tall, but more startling,
And I want the one's longevity and the other's daring.
Tonight, in the infinitesimal light of the stars,
The trees and the flowers have been strewing their cool odors.
I walk among them, but none of them are noticing.
Sometimes I think that when I am sleeping
I must most perfectly resemble them --
Thoughts gone dim.
It is more natural to me, lying down.
Then the sky and I are in open conversation,
And I shall be useful when I lie down finally:
Then the trees may touch me for once, and the flowers have time for me. -
A presentation by Jay, Lee Young and Erik
Gleam - appear like a flash of light
Infinitesimal - small
Strewing - spreading

Narrator: "I", Sylvia Plath or anybody who
is Vertical in a Horizontal society.
First Stanza: Describes the elements the "I" lacks in life: lacks the "motherly love"
and "immortality"
of trees, or the "startlingness"
and "daring"
of flowers. Mood is slight jealousy, indicated by "want", "would rather"
Second Stanza: "I" describes a hypothetical reality, set by "Sometimes I think"
and "I shall be"
), where "I" is finally horizontal. Mood is hopeful, indicated by "among them", "Lie down finally", "time for me", "touch me for once"
Literary Devices
Sensory - "Trees"
, "Garden bed/flowers"
, "stars"
, and "sky"
- evokes a sense of native and unartificial atmosphere since they are all related to nature
Color - Soil
(Brown), trees
& leaf
(green), flowers
, "spectacularly painted"
- various colors suggest the variance of color in life that she lacks
Olfactory - Odors emitted from trees and flowers
affect her and makes her feel isolated
Space Imagery - "infinitesimal light of the stars", "sky and I are in open conversation", "sleeping", "tonight"
Tree - "sucking up minerals and motherly love"
- being nurtured and loved, meaning she didn't get nurtured so well; therefore, she doesn't "gleam into leaf"
when others grow from the love they've received from their mothers (or mother-like figures)
Flower/garden - "attracting ...Ahs and spectacularly painted"
, meaning they are attractive, while she is not like them. Also, flowers "Unknowing I must soon unpetal"
, while Plath knows death is upon her. Therefore, she envies the lack of awareness of flowers regarding death, since they are unfearful of their future and enjoys the time being.
These symbols suggest that love, nurture, beauty, obliviousness of death are the qualities that she lacks in her life, and how she is does not fit into the norm.
- heaven, where there's freedom and access to what she may feel, escape from being abnormal
- euphemism for death (often say sleep forever) and "thoughts gone dim"
knows that people are immortal.
"---", triple dash further alludes to a transformation from being vertical to horizontal, suggesting that the narrator has passed life into another world.
Nature (Trees & Plants) is personified to represent others, while she is the odd one out.
Desolation - "none of them are noticing", "infinitesimal light of the stars"
, so she feels isolation, insignificant and seclusion
Time passing - March, gleam --> Tonight, light of the stars, a continuation of time from morning, bright to evening, darkness
Motifs center around feelings of dissapointment, mortality, uselessness, unacceptance, all highlight Sylvia's depression. Further's the idea of entering death as a solution to all of these problems.
Horizontal/Vertical - Standing vertically literally protrudes from those standing horizontally. Therefore, (figuratively) horizontal is like the norm of the society, while vertical is something abnormal, which is Sylvia Plath.
"Trees may touch me"
and "flowers have time for me"
, meaning that she might get a chance to receive their attention and be a part of the "norm.", literally, being buried and decomposed into nutrients for trees to suck up
Metaphors help visualize Sylvia Plath's strong convictions of wanting to feel normal. She will literally die for love, nurturance, immortality over living a dull, short-lived, unloving life
Enjambment & Onomatopoeia
Enjambment - all over the place
Onomatopoeia "Ahs"
, implying continuous thought
First stanza: Mood is slight jealousy, indicated by "want", "would rather", describes Sylvia's longing for a life with love, beauty, nurturance, and innocence, self criticism
Gazes into much happiness: "beauty, march, gleam, motherly"
Shift in mood from first to second stanza. Mood is hopeful, indicated by "among them", "Lie down finally", "time for me", "touch me for once", yet with a touch of desperation, "Must most perfectly resemble them", "for once", "finally", "time for me", describes Sylvia's imagination of a world where she finally is happy and possess all the qualities that she had once hoped for, this is a reference to her suicidal tendencies
Overarching mood is a hopeful desire for uniting with nature, with society, with her younger age that changes to a strong desire of dying in order to feel welcomed
Yet tone is significantly disappointing and self-deprecating: "would rather be horizontal", "I want", "I walk among them" (She is going to soon be among them as she is thinking about joining nature through death), "natural", "useful" (has positive connotation yet the usage is negative, Literally, Sylvia will only be useful in the sense of feeding the trees/plants, in life she contributes nothing. Reference to doubt of her creativity. Extreme case of self-deprecation)
There are many struggles one has to face when one is not accepted into the norm, as a result, individuals become self-depracating and depressed, and even desire to take drastic measures in order to feel 'useful' or important
Struggles between mankind and nature is ever-present, life is beautiful yet one can never fully achieve it without losing something, such as death, routine (life of tree), being different than other. In order to cope with this, one option is to join nature through death.
Full transcript