by Sylvia Plath
Stanza 8 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
- The Tyrol is part of the Alpine mountain region, with many snow-capped peaks. It borders Germany, in part, but is mostly between the Italian and Austrian border. Many different languages are spoken there, and its nationality is a little muddled.
- One might pass Tyrol while riding a train through Germany, like the train the speaker imagines she is on.
- Vienna is the capital of Austria. Vienna beer, though it is Austrian in origin, surely could be found in nearby Germany. So the speaker is imagining things that could be found in Europe.
- These lines might seem a bit confusing, but try to think of these lines in the context of some of the Holocaust imagery we encountered earlier. The purity of snow in Tyrol and the clear look of Vienna beer are in stark contrast to the dark horrors that took place nearby in Nazi Germany.
- Also, purity in the context of the Nazis means horrible things – like genocide and the quest for "racial purity."
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.
- Here, the speaker talks about a gypsy ancestress. This means that one of her female ancestors was, at least figuratively, a gypsy.
- Then she talks about her "weird luck," which could relate to the mysticism of being part-gypsy, as does the Taroc pack – her pack of Tarot cards, which are used to tell fortunes.
- The repetition in line 39 keeps the rhythm of the line moving.
- But then she ties these lines to her suspicions that she may be part Jewish. This doesn't seem to make very much sense, but it's important to remember that gypsies, like Jews, were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust because they were considered to be "impure." (Learn more about the persecution of the gypsies by the Nazis here.)
- So, if the Nazis killed gypsies and Jews because they thought those people weren't pure, the speaker seems to sarcastically suggest that they should have killed the snows of Tyrol, or the beer of Vienna, for being impure as well.