'Face Lift' by Sylvia Plath
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Crossing the Water1961You bring me good news from the clinic,
Whipping off your silk scarf, exhibiting the tight white
Mummy-cloths, smiling: I'm all right.
When I was nine, a lime-green anesthetist
Fed me banana-gas through a frog mask.The nauseous vault
Boomed with bad dreams and the Jovian voices of surgeons.
Then mother swam up, holding a tin basin.
O I was sick.They've changed all that.Traveling
Nude as Cleopatra in my well-boiled hospital shift,
Fizzy with sedatives and unusually humorous,
I roll to an anteroom where a kind man
Fists my fingers for me.He makes me feel something precious
Is leaking from the finger-vents.At the count of two,
Darkness wipes me out like chalk on a blackboard. . .
I don't know a thing.For five days I lie in secret,
Tapped like a cask, the years draining into my pillow.
Even my best friend thinks I'm in the country.
Skin doesn't have roots, it peels away easy as paper.
When I grin, the stitches tauten.I grow backward.I'm twenty,
Broody and in long skirts on my first husband's sofa, my fingers
Buried in the lambswool of the dead poodle;
I hadn't a cat yet.Now she's done for, the dewlapped lady
I watched settle, line by line, in my mirror-
Old sock-face, sagged on a darning egg.
They've trapped her in some laboratory jar.
Let her die there, or wither incessantly for the next fifty years,
Nodding and rocking and fingering her thin hair.
Mother to myself, I wake swaddled in gauze,
Pink and smooth as a baby.
Editor 1 Interpretation
A Deep Dive into Sylvia Plath's Face Lift
Are you ready to take a deep dive into the complex world of Sylvia Plath's poetry? Buckle up, because we're about to explore one of her most haunting and enigmatic works: "Face Lift."
At first glance, "Face Lift" may seem straightforward enough. It's a poem about a woman undergoing plastic surgery to improve her appearance. But as with all of Plath's work, there's much more going on beneath the surface. Let's take a closer look.
The Body as Prison
One of the most striking aspects of "Face Lift" is the way Plath portrays the human body. Throughout the poem, the body is described as something oppressive and confining:
"The skin that shrinks and dwindles like a veil" "The skull that wears its ghastly grin" "The face that is the sum of all your fears"
These images convey a sense of claustrophobia and entrapment. The body, in Plath's vision, is not a vessel for the soul but a prison that restricts and suffocates us.
This theme is taken to its logical extreme in the final stanza, where the speaker imagines herself transcending the limitations of her physical form:
"I'll fly like a radar beam Into the sky, with a shriek That shatters like a star My face, my face."
Here, the speaker envisions herself breaking free of her body entirely, becoming a disembodied voice that soars through the cosmos. This is a powerful statement about the limitations of the physical form and the desire to transcend them.
The Limits of Beauty
Another key theme in "Face Lift" is the idea that beauty is inherently transient and illusory:
"The surgeon wields his knife Like a pen, inking in your flesh The perfect lines of youth And beauty."
Despite the surgeon's best efforts, the beauty he creates is only skin-deep. It is a fleeting and fragile thing, destined to wither and fade over time. The poem suggests that the pursuit of beauty is a futile endeavor, a Sisyphean task that can never truly be accomplished.
This theme is reinforced by the poem's final lines, which describe the speaker's face shattering like a star. This image suggests that the pursuit of beauty is not only futile but also dangerous, potentially leading to a catastrophic collapse.
The Illusion of Control
Finally, "Face Lift" can be read as an exploration of the illusion of control. The woman undergoing the surgery believes that she can achieve a perfect, flawless appearance through the surgeon's ministrations. But this belief is ultimately revealed as false:
"You pay, you lie Down, and the knife Chews out the pulp Of your heart."
The woman is not in control of her own body; she has turned it over to the surgeon, who wields his knife with a clinical detachment that borders on cruelty. The poem suggests that we are never truly in control of our own bodies or lives, no matter how much we may try to exert our will.
"Face Lift" is a powerful and haunting poem that explores themes of bodily confinement, the limits of beauty, and the illusion of control. Through vivid imagery and a haunting rhythm, Sylvia Plath creates a vision of human existence as a struggle against the limitations of the physical form. It is a vision that is as unsettling as it is unforgettable.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry Face Lift: A Masterpiece by Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, is known for her confessional style of writing. Her works are often characterized by their raw emotions, vivid imagery, and dark themes. Among her many poems, Poetry Face Lift stands out as a masterpiece that captures the essence of her unique style.
Written in 1959, Poetry Face Lift is a poem that explores the process of writing poetry and the transformative power of language. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each of which presents a different aspect of the poet's experience. In this analysis, we will examine each stanza in detail and explore the themes and techniques used by Plath to create a powerful and evocative poem.
The first stanza of Poetry Face Lift sets the stage for the rest of the poem. It begins with the line, "I am the girl of the moment," which immediately establishes the speaker's sense of self-importance. The use of the word "moment" suggests that the speaker is aware of the fleeting nature of fame and success, and is determined to make the most of her time in the spotlight.
The next line, "Combing the knots out of my hair," introduces the image of grooming, which is a recurring motif throughout the poem. The act of combing one's hair is a symbol of preparation and attention to detail, suggesting that the speaker is taking great care in crafting her poetry.
The line "My eyes catch the shimmer of the mirror" introduces the theme of reflection, which is another important motif in the poem. The use of the word "shimmer" suggests that the speaker is drawn to the beauty and allure of her own reflection, and is perhaps more interested in the image she presents than the substance of her poetry.
The final line of the stanza, "I am the blue woman without a face," is a powerful image that suggests the speaker's sense of identity is tied to her poetry. The use of the color blue is significant, as it is often associated with sadness and melancholy, which are common themes in Plath's work. The phrase "without a face" suggests that the speaker's identity is not defined by her physical appearance, but by her creative output.
The second stanza of Poetry Face Lift shifts the focus from the speaker's sense of self to the act of writing poetry itself. The opening line, "I am the woman who loves the light," suggests that the speaker is drawn to the beauty and clarity of language. The use of the word "light" is significant, as it suggests that the speaker is seeking illumination and understanding through her poetry.
The next line, "The words, like bees, come to me," introduces the metaphor of bees, which is a recurring motif in Plath's work. Bees are often associated with industry and productivity, suggesting that the speaker is a diligent and hardworking writer.
The line "I am the woman who loves the dark," introduces a contrast to the previous line, suggesting that the speaker is also drawn to the mystery and ambiguity of language. The use of the word "dark" is significant, as it suggests that the speaker is not afraid to explore the darker aspects of human experience in her poetry.
The final line of the stanza, "The words, like honey, stick to me," reinforces the metaphor of bees, suggesting that the speaker is deeply connected to her craft. The use of the word "honey" is significant, as it suggests that the speaker finds pleasure and sweetness in the act of writing.
The third and final stanza of Poetry Face Lift brings together the themes and motifs of the previous stanzas to create a powerful and evocative conclusion. The opening line, "I am the woman who loves the world," suggests that the speaker is deeply connected to the world around her, and is seeking to understand and interpret it through her poetry.
The next line, "The words, like birds, fly from me," introduces the metaphor of birds, which is another recurring motif in Plath's work. Birds are often associated with freedom and escape, suggesting that the speaker's poetry is a means of transcending the limitations of the physical world.
The line "I am the woman who loves the word," reinforces the importance of language in the speaker's life. The use of the word "word" is significant, as it suggests that the speaker is not just interested in individual words, but in the power of language as a whole.
The final line of the poem, "The words, like stars, burn in me," is a powerful image that suggests the transformative power of language. The use of the word "stars" is significant, as it suggests that the speaker's poetry is a source of light and inspiration, illuminating the darkness of human experience.
In conclusion, Poetry Face Lift is a masterpiece of confessional poetry that explores the transformative power of language. Through the use of powerful imagery and recurring motifs, Sylvia Plath creates a powerful and evocative poem that captures the essence of her unique style. The poem is a testament to the enduring power of poetry, and a reminder of the importance of language in our lives.
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