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by Sylvia Plath

Stanza 7 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 31-33

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen

  • There was no period ending line 30, which said that the German language was obscene, so the engine is probably a metaphor for the German language.
  • Then the speaker takes the engine metaphor further, saying that the language, like a train, is "chuffing" her off like a Jew. "Chuffing" is an example of onomatopoeia, it uses words to mimic the sound of a train.
  • The significance of being taken by train, like a Jew, is that during the Holocaust the Germans took Jews to concentration camps by way of train. The speaker even lists some World War II concentration camps, saying that it's like she's being taken to Dachau, Auschwitz, and Belsen. Dachau and Belsen were in Germany, and Auschwitz was in German-occupied Poland.
  • The speaker is so terrified by the German language that it feels like it is a train taking her to a horrible, mass death.

Lines 34-35

I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew

  • The speaker is so opposed to the German language that she begins to talk like a Jew, perhaps in Yiddish. She even thinks that she may be Jewish.
  • These lines explain that the speaker associates the fear and terror of her father with the struggle of the Jewish people against the Germans – it's a vivid and disturbing metaphor.

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