What is "Lady Lazarus" by Sylvia Plath about?

Expert Answers
mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This poem has a theme of resurrection, of rising from the dead, and of the spectacle that such an occurrence is in one's life and the life of those who witness such an event.  Whether this "resurrection" is literal or figurative, Plath discusses how she the character in the poem has done it 3 times in her life, and how she manages to do it every decade (she mentions that she is "only thirty" in her poem).  She writes the poem as a sort of female Lazarus (Lazarus was a man who Christ raised from the dead in the Bible), and in the poem describes the physical, very real ugliness of the corpse coming back to life.  She mentions "worms," "eyepits," and "sour breath" as part of the dead body, and mentions a rather circus-like atmosphere as people come to gawk and gaze at the creepy and surreal phenomenon.

She also has a theme of potential female anger against male domination; she describes Germanesque dominating males who want to profit from her, but that she will not let them. She will disappear, leaving only "a cake of soap, a wedding ring, a gold filling" so that they cannot manipulate her and use her for their ends. In all, it is a poem of female empowerment, and also of a unique spectacle that people take a rather morbid curiosity in.  Given her attempted suicides in her lifetime, these thoughts could be autobiographical, or could simply be a unique way to express sentiments about life, death, males and females.

Enotes also has some really great commentary and discussion of the poem; I included a link below. I hope that these thoughts help a bit to get you started on the poem's meaning. Good luck!