Describe Death & Co. by Sylvia Plath

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enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The images presented in the poem suggest the narrator as a corpse ("I am red meat") that is about to be consumed by a condor ("His beak claps sideways") which, similar to vultures, subsist off carrion. However, the narrator is not quite dead yet ("I am not his yet.")  The use of the word "photograph" anchors the narration to a particular event -- the narrator is describing her experience being photographed -- the allusion becomes clear when considering the shutters of old commercial cameras would open and shut sideways.  The phrase "lidded and balled" suggests the curved (ball shape) lens of the camera as an eyeball whose lid opens and shuts.  Furthermore, very old commercial cameras would have a black cape or cover which the photographer would slide under to eliminate the surrounding glare so he could focus on the image he was photographing.  Observing this human form under a black covering suggests the narrator viewing him as the iconic embodiment of death (consider what the Ghost of Christmas Future in A Christmas Carol, looks like, for example.)  The narrator is not just describing being photographed, but being photographed in the nude, which suggests vulnerability.  In addition to this description of Death, there is "Company" (The other who smiles and smokes) and who is perhaps leering and definitely wishing to be loved by the narrator.  Her exposure to the photographer and his guest suggests her feelings of degradation, at being reduced to "a piece of meat."  Classically, the narrator incorporates the metaphors of sex and death in the poem.