'Fever 103' by Sylvia Plath


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The Collected Poems1962Pure? What does it mean?
The tongues of hell
Are dull, dull as the tripleTongues of dull, fat Cerebus
Who wheezes at the gate. Incapable
Of licking cleanThe aguey tendon, the sin, the sin.
The tinder cries.
The indelible smellOf a snuffed candle!
Love, love, the low smokes roll
From me like Isadora's scarves, I'm in a frightOne scarf will catch and anchor in the wheel.
Such yellow sullen smokes
Make their own element. They will not rise,But trundle round the globe
Choking the aged and the meek,
The weakHothouse baby in its crib,
The ghastly orchid
Hanging its hanging garden in the air,Devilish leopard!
Radiation turned it white
And killed it in an hour.Greasing the bodies of adulterers
Like Hiroshima ash and eating in.
The sin. The sin.Darling, all night
I have been flickering, off, on, off, on.
The sheets grow heavy as a lecher's kiss.Three days. Three nights.
Lemon water, chicken
Water, water make me retch.I am too pure for you or anyone.
Your body
Hurts me as the world hurts God. I am a lantern ----My head a moon
Of Japanese paper, my gold beaten skin
Infinitely delicate and infinitely expensive.Does not my heat astound you. And my light.
All by myself I am a huge camellia
Glowing and coming and going, flush on flush.I think I am going up,
I think I may rise ----
The beads of hot metal fly, and I, love, IAm a pure acetylene
Virgin
Attended by roses,By kisses, by cherubim,
By whatever these pink things mean.
Not you, nor him.Not him, nor him
(My selves dissolving, old whore petticoats) ----
To Paradise.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Fever 103°: A Fiery Masterpiece of Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath's poetry, with its haunting imagery and raw emotion, has long captivated readers and scholars alike. One of her most powerful and enduring works, "Fever 103°," is a searing portrayal of a feverish illness and the speaker's descent into madness. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, symbolism, and language of this fiery masterpiece.

Context and Background

Before delving into the poem itself, it's important to understand the context in which it was written. Plath wrote "Fever 103°" in October 1962, during a period of intense personal and political turmoil. She had recently separated from her husband, poet Ted Hughes, and was struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. At the same time, the Cold War was at its peak, and the Cuban Missile Crisis was looming. Against this backdrop of personal and global crises, Plath wrote some of her most powerful poetry, including "Fever 103°."

Themes and Symbolism

At its core, "Fever 103°" is a poem about the destructive power of illness, both physical and mental. The speaker is suffering from a fever that has left her delirious and disconnected from reality. The poem describes her feverish visions and hallucinations, which are vivid and terrifying:

The fever has its own universe. It eats at my flesh, it is

Capricious, the complete black Curtains, burn, then are gone Like wishes or the miraculous.

The fever is depicted as a malevolent force that is consuming the speaker's body and mind, causing her to lose touch with reality. The language is full of violent and destructive imagery, such as "burn," "crackling," "scalding," and "inflamed," which further emphasize the theme of illness as a destructive force.

But "Fever 103°" is also a poem about the power of the imagination and the human spirit to overcome adversity. Despite her feverish delirium, the speaker is able to conjure up images of beauty and wonder, such as a "dolphin" and a "sapphire flower." These images provide a brief respite from the speaker's suffering, and suggest that even in the darkest of times, the human spirit can find moments of transcendence and beauty.

Another key theme of the poem is the idea of transformation. The speaker's fever is depicted as a kind of metamorphosis, transforming her body and mind in unpredictable and often terrifying ways. The fever is described as a "fiery demon," a "cancerous moon," and a "black wolf." These images suggest a transformation into something dark and primal, something that is both terrifying and alluring.

Finally, "Fever 103°" is a poem about the power of language and poetry itself. The speaker's feverish visions are described in vivid and evocative language, which underscores the power of words to create meaning and convey emotion. The poem itself is a testament to the power of poetry to capture the complex and often contradictory experience of being human.

Language and Form

"Fever 103°" is a free-verse poem that is divided into five stanzas of varying lengths. The language is highly symbolic and metaphorical, with the use of vivid and often violent imagery. The poem is written in a first-person point of view, which gives the reader an intimate glimpse into the speaker's feverish mind.

One of the most striking features of the poem is its use of repetition. The phrase "I have" is repeated throughout the poem, which emphasizes the speaker's sense of isolation and disconnectedness. The repetition of the phrase "I am burning" also emphasizes the theme of illness as a destructive force. The use of repetition creates a sense of rhythm and momentum, which adds to the intensity of the poem.

The language of "Fever 103°" is highly evocative and sensory. The poem is full of vivid images and metaphors, such as "the sun blooms like a dark red flower" and "I am a nun now, I have never been so pure." These images create a sense of intensity and immediacy, which draws the reader into the speaker's feverish world.

Interpretation

Interpreting "Fever 103°" requires a close reading of the language and imagery, as well as an understanding of the poem's historical and biographical context. The poem can be read as a powerful commentary on the destructive power of illness, both physical and mental. The fever is depicted as a malevolent force that consumes the speaker's body and mind, causing her to lose touch with reality.

But the poem can also be read as a testament to the power of imagination and the human spirit to overcome adversity. Despite her feverish delirium, the speaker is able to conjure up images of beauty and wonder, which suggest that even in the darkest of times, the human spirit can find moments of transcendence and beauty.

Finally, "Fever 103°" can be read as a meditation on the power of language and poetry itself. The poem is full of vivid and evocative language, which underscores the power of words to create meaning and convey emotion. The repetition of certain phrases creates a sense of rhythm and momentum, which adds to the intensity of the poem.

Conclusion

In conclusion, "Fever 103°" is a fiery masterpiece of Sylvia Plath that captures the complex and often contradictory experience of illness and madness. The poem explores themes of transformation, imagination, and language, and is full of powerful and evocative imagery. While the poem can be read in a variety of ways, it remains a testament to the enduring power of poetry to capture the human experience in all its complexity and beauty.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Fever 103°: A Masterpiece of Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath, the renowned American poet, is known for her confessional style of writing that delves deep into the human psyche. Her poem, Fever 103°, is a classic example of her unique style that captures the essence of human emotions and experiences. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, exploring its themes, literary devices, and overall impact.

The poem Fever 103° was written by Sylvia Plath in 1962, just a few months before her death. It is a confessional poem that reflects the poet's personal experiences and emotions. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each with a different tone and theme. The first stanza is a description of the physical symptoms of fever, while the second stanza is a reflection on the poet's past experiences. The third stanza is a contemplation of death and the afterlife.

The poem begins with a vivid description of the physical symptoms of fever. The poet uses powerful imagery to convey the intensity of the fever, such as "hot, white, inwards turning flame" and "the fever-tree's spreading canopy." The use of the color white is significant, as it symbolizes purity and innocence, which contrasts with the intense heat of the fever. The fever is also personified as a "tree," which suggests that it is a natural force that cannot be controlled.

In the second stanza, the poet reflects on her past experiences, which are characterized by pain and suffering. She describes herself as a "witch" and a "black magician," which suggests that she has been through dark times and has the power to overcome them. The use of the word "witch" also suggests that the poet is an outsider, someone who does not conform to societal norms. This is a common theme in Plath's poetry, as she often explores the idea of the individual versus society.

The third stanza is a contemplation of death and the afterlife. The poet imagines herself as a "bride" who is waiting for her "husband," who is death. She describes death as a "coolness," which suggests that it is a release from the intense heat of life. The use of the word "husband" is significant, as it suggests that death is a companion who will take care of the poet in the afterlife. The final lines of the poem, "Now I am ready to entertain / Any number of gods," suggest that the poet is open to the idea of the afterlife and is ready to embrace whatever comes next.

The themes of Fever 103° are complex and multi-layered. One of the main themes is the idea of transformation. The fever is a transformative force that changes the poet's physical and emotional state. The use of the word "witch" suggests that the poet has the power to transform herself and her surroundings. The idea of transformation is also reflected in the third stanza, where the poet imagines herself as a bride waiting for her husband, who is death. Death is a transformative force that will take the poet to a new realm of existence.

Another theme of the poem is the idea of the individual versus society. The use of the word "witch" suggests that the poet is an outsider who does not conform to societal norms. The poet's reflection on her past experiences suggests that she has been through difficult times and has had to overcome societal pressures. The idea of the individual versus society is a common theme in Plath's poetry, as she often explores the idea of the individual's struggle for autonomy and self-expression.

The use of literary devices in Fever 103° is masterful. The poem is full of powerful imagery, such as the "hot, white, inwards turning flame" and the "fever-tree's spreading canopy." The use of personification, such as the fever being described as a "tree," adds depth and complexity to the poem. The use of repetition, such as the repetition of the word "fever" throughout the poem, creates a sense of urgency and intensity.

In conclusion, Fever 103° is a masterpiece of Sylvia Plath's confessional style of writing. The poem explores complex themes such as transformation and the individual versus society, using powerful imagery and literary devices. The poem's impact is profound, as it captures the essence of human emotions and experiences. Sylvia Plath's legacy as a poet continues to inspire and influence generations of readers and writers.

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