Lady Lazarus

Lady Lazarus

by Sylvia Plath

I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it——

A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot

A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine
Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin
my enemy.
Do I terrify?——

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.

Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me

And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.

This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.

What a million filaments.
The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot——
The big strip tease.
Gentlemen, ladies

These are my hands
My knees.
I may be skin and bone,

Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.

The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut

As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

Dying
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.

It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.
It’s the theatrical

Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute
Amused shout:

‘A miracle!’
That knocks me out.
There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart——
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.

I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash—
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there——

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Beware
Beware.

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

Summary of Lady Lazarus

  • Popularity of “Lady Lazarus”: This poem was written by Sylvia Plath, a great American poet and short story writer. ‘Lady Lazarus’ is a bitter dramatic monologue, famous for the themes of death and oppression. It was published in 1965, two years after her death by suicide. The poem gives hints to multiple suicide attempts of the tormented speaker. It also highlights the role of power and oppression in one’s life. The poem also expresses the ideas of not giving up and resurrection.
  • “Lady Lazarus” As a Representative of Death: The poem details the tragic life of a lady and her several suicide attempts. She says that she has tried to kill herself many times, but surprisingly survived every time. She asks those who saved her from peeling off the napkin from her face and see her wounded soul. She compares her suffering to Nazi prisoners to make the readers understand the reason for her discontent. As the poem progresses, she provides graphic details of physical and the mentality effects of suicide. She lashes out on her doctors and those who take her as an object of entertainment. She concludes by calling herself a phoenix, rising from the ashes.
  • Major Themes in “Lady Lazarus”: Death, depression, pain, and power are the major themes of this poem. The disheartened speaker talks about her failed suicide attempts and give reasons for her resentment. She also expresses her anger for those who saved her from dying. Despite every effort to die she still survived. She continuously states the idea that she is being used as an object of entertainment. She regrets that her actions are watched as an act of amusement, rather than empathy. Moreover, the people, with their fake sympathies, are contributing more in her pain, and they are not allowing her to be free.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Lady Lazarus”

Literary devices are tools used by writers to express their emotions, ideas, and themes and to make the text appealing to the readers. Sylvia Plath has also employed some literary devices in this poem to narrate her failed suicide attempts. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been given below. 

  1. Simile: It is a device used to compare something with something else to make the meanings clear to the readers. For example, “And like the cat I have nine times to die”. Here the poet compares herself with a cat who can survive a tragic fall.
  2. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. For example, ‘So’ is repeated in twenty second stanza of the poem to emphasize the point.

“Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.”

  1. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought or clause that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it moves over the next line. For example,

The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.”

  1. Hyperbole: Hyperbole is a device used to exaggerate any statement for the sake of emphasis. For example, “To annihilate each decade” is hyperbole and no one can destroy or erase time.
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different in nature. For example, “A sort of walking miracle, my skin; Bright as a Nazi lampshade.” Here she compares her suffering to prisoners in the Nazi concentration camps.
  3. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /a/ in “And there is a charge, a very large charge.”
  4. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth”, “To the same place, the same face, the same brute” and “Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.”

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Lady Lazarus”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem. 

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some verses and lines. There are twenty-eight three-lined stanzas in this poem.
  2. Tercet: A tercet is a three-lined stanza borrowed from Hebrew poetry. All the stanzas in the poem is a tercet.
  3. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. For example, “hair/air”, “burn/concern” and “out/shout.”

Quotes to be Used

The lines below can be used to encourage people who are losing hope. Here the creature that is out of the ash is a phoenix. This can be used to tell that everyone can come out as a winner after a difficult time.

“Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair.”