Study Guide

Ariel Man and the Natural World

By Sylvia Plath

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Man and the Natural World

Man and the natural world? It's more like "woman" and the natural world in this case. "Ariel" tells the story of the speaker's transformative experience when she gets up close and personal with nature, and she learns to give up her desire for control and accept the craziness of ol' Mother Nature. While at first the speaker is fearful of Ariel (and who could blame her?), by the end of the poem the speaker becomes "at one" with her horse. She learns that the way to gain power is not to attempt to change Ariel, but to accept her wild nature. Nature's gonna do what it's gonna do; we're all just along for the wild ride.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. Do you think that Ariel is a stand-in for the wider natural world? Or is a horse sometimes just a horse? Why do you think so?
  2. Does the poem offer up any method of controlling nature? Or is nature always uncontrollable? 
  3. Other than Ariel, what other aspects of nature does the speaker experience in the poem? Are they like or unlike the uncontrollable Ariel?

Chew on This

Nature in "Ariel" is only dangerous when you try to tame it. Anybody who watches the Discovery Chanel could tell you that.

All nature is dangerous in this poem. Just think of Ariel and those bloody berries—yipes.

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