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Prodigy of Rebirth in Sylvia Plath’s Ariel
I’m in limbo between the old world and the very uncertain and rather dark new world (Wagner Martin120)
In search of an ideal self, the poetess, although she lives in a world of random and threatening events, has courageously undergone a kind of rebirth both in her life and strives to urge the satisfaction of his own self. Yearning for true fulfillment, Sylvia Plath inevitably finds it inevitable to initiate a metabolism that proved to be the motive for rebirth in most of her later Ariel poems. She, as the “poetically inspired cauldron goddess” (Wagner Martin 114), is pioneering the process of rebirth by invoking resurrection in her new collection of poetry, Ariel. Open-ended thriller poems that have been tapped into the inner being of their creator are a fitting sight to deconstruct. The moral investigation of this stimulating new world of poetry offers the character the essential possibility of extinguishing his repressed cries and his agonies of his past. The arduous persistence over the details gives the poems such vitality that readers are ensnared in participating in both the objective and subjective atmosphere presented in these settings. In Ariel, Plath correlates the notion of rebirth with motherhood and motherhood. The old self might be exemplary of maternal domination and contamination by others while the emerging new self is free and liberated unlike the first dependent.
Shocks of motherhood and motherhood
Love got you going like a big gold watch.
The midwife slapped your soles of feet, and your bald cry
Took his place among the elements. (CP 156)
When one recalls the notion of Mother, the first projection that impresses is the devoted act of love and mercy. Knowing the fact that Plath’s bipolar disorder and postpartum depression intensified after her pregnancy, this issue could therefore be seen as her anxious attitude towards coitus and conception. This requires considering that pregnancy is tantamount to losing one’s identity in a certain sense. Reproducing a creature that sucks its own blood and inherits a genetic characteristic is exactly the same so-called otherness that was discussed in detail in the second chapter of this thesis. In “Metaphors”, Plath applies a kind of metaphorical language to describe personality pregnancy. She points to an elephant as a heavy pregnant woman and a watermelon as a fetus. The cumbersome act of pregnancy has been grotesquely described in a riddle-like poem of nine-syllable “Metaphors.”
This uncontrolled outpouring of affection, as discussed in the previous chapter, could sometimes hinder the child’s progress because the mother severely promotes otherness in the child by feeding her own unfulfilled expectations and suppressed desires. To establish the independent personality, the child must kill the parenthood within.
The mother’s breast is parched and stiff in Ariel’s poems. Its milk is the obvious source of otherness injected into the child’s body through suction. On the other hand, Plath associates the idea of abortion with motherhood and motherhood, when the life of the embryo as otherness is taken and ended deliberately or not.
Thus, the parasite and host relationship of mother and child plays the dual role such that once the mother is the host when the child is embryo, for alterity simultaneously feeds on the blood of the mother is to allow otherness to enter her body and another moment is when the child is the host and the parasitic mother feeds the baby with her milk as otherness.
The old self is like a mother who suffers from a fatal disease and gives birth to a new baby because the new and true self would lead to her death. This idea of mothering and rebirth covers most of Sylvia Plath’s poems while at the same time the concept of mothering and its fertilization, patriarchal power and creation would be summoned to question themselves. Since this birth is free from intercourse and meditation and furthermore giving birth and pregnancy is the mere right of production, acceptable to female entities in factual standards, this is apparently what Plath could question and sarcasm the productive power of the Almighty and his guilt and determination in creating the lord of creatures, human. In ‘Lady Lazarus’, she exclaims:
“From ashes / I rise with red hair / And eat men like air” (Collected Poems 246).
This rebirth from the ashes is the parody of the day of Resurrection, but it did not do so under the will and permission of its creator, but simply derived spontaneously from its own yen and desire. Again elsewhere in “Lady Lazarus”, the narrator puts her body parts together as God has sworn and guaranteed in the holy book to do the same on the day of resurrection: “These are my hands / My knees. / I can to be skin and bones, / Nevertheless, I am the same identical woman” (Collected Poems 245).
If ridiculing such a magnanimous act of rebirth and resurrection in a kangaroo court of a poem like “Lady Lazarus” is not an act of defiance and supremacy, then what could it be called?
To call Plath atheist or to regard his poetic style and theme as profane would go beyond the scope of this discussion and turn to theological and religious doctrines and principles.
On the counter-actions of two competing Selfs, in the previous section it was argued that the old self is an adult and a mother, but here, on the contrary, one could consider the childish aspect of the old False Me and the mature portrait of the new True. What really matters in this metamorphosis is the process and phase that the person has gone through and the freshness of soul and entity with a whiteboard inside, removing all black spots from the past.
The Primitive Self and the New Reborn Self
Ariel seemingly embodies Plath’s response to oppressive modern society. The artist’s self has the capacity to be promoted and therefore it must necessarily be nourished in order to be reborn. The counter-action between the selves, the first and the new, would particularly interest so many critics:
Whereas in early poems the self was often imagined in terms of its own transformative possibilities, in post-colossus poems the self is more often seen as trapped in a closed cycle. One moves, but only in a circle and continually returns to the same starting point. Rather than the self and the world, Ariel’s poems register the self in the world. The self can only change and grow, transform and be reborn if the world in which it exists does; the possibilities of the self are intimately and inextricably linked to those of the world [Italic mine] (Pamela J. Annas171)
The self encounters a sort of buffer effect from the world in order to define itself and be recognized. Obviously, the self finds its validity and meaning in the external world and its elements. Contemplatively speaking, the world and the environment shape the form of the self as pottery shapes clay.
The idea of Rebirth came in the last lines of “Love Letter” in The Collected Poems edited by Ted Hughes to testify to such a metamorphosis within the character:
The tree and the stone sparkled, without shadows.
The length of my fingers became as transparent as glass.
I began to bud like a March twig:
One arm and one leg, one arm, one leg.
From stone to cloud, so I climbed.
Now I look like some kind of god
Floating through the air in a change of soul
Pure as a slab of ice. It’s a gift. (CP147)
“One arm and one leg” here would connote the biblical allusion to the Day of Resurrection that all members would be associated as before. The repetition of “…one arm, one leg” simply signifies the character’s assurance and simultaneous astonishment at such recreation and rebirth. Beyond that, the most important thing is that “An arm and a leg” could refer to something expensive and expensive. This revival certainly cost Plath “an arm, a leg”. She would have to pay exorbitant sums to obtain such a precious Rebirth.
“From stone to cloud, thus I ascended” specifies the moral elevation and the height of such a Renaissance. One could interpret that the soul of the character joined the divine entity that was childishly believed and usually located in the sky and behind the clouds.
‘Cloud’ also usually makes the notion of fertilization and fertility sparkle because rain clouds are pregnant with rain and bring freshness and rebirth to all nature.
“Now I look like some kind of God”, in Greek mythology, there are different symbols of God that exist for each element, better to mention Wind God, Fire Goddess, etc. But here, due to the act of creation, the character gallantly parallels the Almighty by enforcing daring statements and therefore calls all creation into requisition and takes it for a work of fatigue.
The character comparing and describing himself “to bud like a March twig” could be as if claiming to defy nature with his own rebirth and shapeshifting potential and aptitude which in the next section would be fully discussed.
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