Study Guide

Lady Lazarus Violence

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"Lady Lazarus" is an undeniably violent poem. It's filled with mangled bodies, fierce circus crowds, and murderous Nazis. The best way that Lady Lazarus (and, for that matter, Sylvia Plath) can communicate her deep depression to us is through violent imagery and imagined experiences. We don't know much about Lady L's life outside of the poem, but her imagined life of brutal circuses and concentration camps is a violent, horrific place. We don't want to go to there.

Questions About Violence

  1. What does Lady Lazarus think that the circus crowd wants or expects from her?
  2. Do you see any connection between the type of violence perpetrated by the circus crowds and the violence perpetrated by the Nazis?
  3. Why do you think Plath refers to a number of animal and mythological creatures in the poem? What's their connection with violence?
  4. Do you think that Plath has a right to compare her depressed state to the torture and murder of the Jewish people? Or is the violence of the Holocaust too great and too loaded to be used as a metaphor in a poem?

Chew on This

The violent Holocaust imagery in the poem is a powerful way for Plath to express her emotions, and she has every right to use it.

The violent Holocaust imagery in the poem diminishes Plath's emotions, because the suffering of one woman could never equal the deaths of six million Jews.

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