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by Sylvia Plath

Ariel Theme of Power

When "Ariel" begins, the speaker is powerless. Ariel takes off at a wild gallop, and the speaker can't control her horse at all. The cool thing about the poem, though, is that instead of gaining power by taking control of the horse, the speaker gains her power by submitting to the horse, by becoming "at one" with the horse's will. By giving up her desire and need for control, and learning to let loose, the speaker is able to channel the power of the natural world. Not a bad lesson for an early morning horseback ride, if you ask us.

Questions About Power

  1. What is the relationship between power and control in the poem? 
  2. How does Plath represent power in "Ariel"? What kinds of words and images does she use?
  3. What is the relationship between power and death in the poem? Do you find it disturbing that the speaker's power is so closely linked to death in "Ariel"?

Chew on This

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

Give up, give in, get happy. The poem argues that you can only attain power by admitting that you have no control over the world.

This poem is more about recognizing limits than embracing them. Ariel will always have power over the speaker; she's a massive horse and the speaker is just downright silly to think anything otherwise.

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