“The Colossus” is a fairly short poem in free verse, with six stanzas of five lines each. The title of the poem, which also serves at the title of Sylvia Plath’s first collection of poetry, suggests both the classical world in which huge statues or monuments were constructed (for example, the Colossus of Rhodes, an ancient wonder of the world) and the enormity of the subject for the writer.
The poem is written in the first person, but the speaker of the poem does not place herself in a recognizably contemporary world; instead, she chooses a strange environment that seems to be partially a reconstruction of classical Greece and Rome and partially a bizarre world of exaggerated, nightmarish metaphors. As with many first-person lyrics, this poem is addressed to a specific “you”; however, the identity of the person addressed is withheld from the reader through the first three stanzas.
Plath begins with an image that suggests Humpty-Dumpty rather than the classical world. She can never get her colossus “pieced, glued, and properly jointed” together, no matter how hard she tries. Despite her attempts to “dredge the silt” from the throat of this thing (is it monster, statue, human, or animal?), all she hears are the untranslatable brays, grunts, and cackles proceeding from its lips. Because the oracles of Greece and Rome communicated by nearly incomprehensible messages, Plath thinks that perhaps these sounds are coming from a...
(The entire section is 573 words.)