“Edge” is a short poem in free verse; its twenty lines are divided into ten couplet stanzas. The title suggests a border, perhaps between life and death. One of the last two poems written by Sylvia Plath before her suicide, “Edge” is a meditation on the death of a woman.
Written in the third person, the poem may give the impression of offering a detached judgment of the dead woman. This point of view usually suggests a less subjective perspective than the first person. The apparently objective imagery of the poem, however, disguises a high degree of subjectivity on the part of the poet.
“Edge” begins with an implied thesis: A woman is “perfected” by death. It is not difficult to see at least three ways in which the woman has been “perfected.” To “perfect” means to complete, to master, or to make flawless. While literally true that the woman has completed her life, “perfected” also suggests that the woman has mastered womanhood and has been made flawless through her death. These notions of completion, mastery, and achieved excellence are linked to death in the brief second line, “Her dead,” which provides an approximate rhyme with the first line.
The second stanza notes “the smile of accomplishment” that adorns the dead body, suggesting that the woman is pleased by the perfection she has achieved. The poet then hints that the woman has achieved death through suicide. The “Greek necessity” that one imagines flowing “in the scrolls of her toga” strongly suggests the ritual suicides demanded of disgraced individuals in the classical world. Although most readers are familiar with the self-inflicted death by hemlock of the Greek philosopher Socrates, ritual suicide (like the toga) is actually associated with imperial Rome. Nevertheless, Plath is able to allude to her own writing through the clever description of the folds of the toga as “scrolls.” The third and fourth...
(The entire section is 795 words.)