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by Sylvia Plath

Ariel Theme of Death

Sylvia Plath: her name's almost synonymous with suicide in popular culture, so it's really no surprise that "Ariel" deals with death. But don't get too down when reading this poem; death here is actually a pretty positive thing. It's more of a metaphorical death than a real death—it's about the transformation of a fearful woman into a powerful woman. The death in the poem is the death of the speaker's former, fearful self. Good riddance, if you ask us. As far as Plath's poetry goes, death in "Ariel" is pretty darn optimistic.

Questions About Death

  1. Is it possible to talk about death in "Ariel" without talking about Plath's real-life suicide? Why do you think so?
  2. Is it even accurate to talk about the poem in terms of death? Or should we really be talking about rebirth in "Ariel"? 
  3. What's your interpretation of the "suicidal" arrow? Do you see it as a morbid image? Or as a hopeful one?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

It's impossible to talk about "Ariel" without mentioning Plath's suicide. The word "suicidal" is even in the poem, for crimminey's sake.

We need to accept the fact that a poem is just a poem, and leave Plath's life, and death, out of our interpretation. If we want to read about Plath's life, we should read her diaries. Poems are a whole different kettle of fish (or in this case, horses).

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