Sylvia Plath

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Analyze the poem "Full Fathom Five" by Sylvia Plath.

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In analyzing Plath's poetry, one has to account for the role of her father in her life and work.  Plath's experience with her father was formative.  Articulated in her poetry, there is a struggle to fully make peace with this father figure.  It is a sensibility that can be seen in the poem.  There is an approach to the father figure in the poem as a god.   Like so many relationships with the divine, there is an articulation of power.  Yet, Plath does not fully suggest that there is redemption in this relationship.  There is power and a sense of the massive in the articulation of the divine.  Consider Plath's use of terms such as "miles long" or "surface seldom" help to bring to light that the vision being witnessed is that of a larger than life being.  Yet, the use of images such as "kneeled ice mountains" reflects the emotional frigidity that exists between mortal and divine. There is little warmth in this relationship.  Rather, it is one where the divine demands awe and submissive respect, without really accounting for much in way of reciprocity.  When Plath employs the images such as "obscurity" and "danger" along with "labyrinthine tangle," it helps to bring out how she views this figure as one with ambiguity.  Plath is seeking to sort out her own feelings about this figure, one in which absolutism is not clear.  Yet, the closing lines of the poem reflects the suffocation that she experiences from this figure.  This suffocation is seen in "thick air" that is "murderous" and  Plath suggesting that she "breathe water."  It is here where one sees that the impact of the "divine" figure might not be one of creation, but one of destruction.  This theme will be seen in other Plath poems.

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