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Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath Summary


  1. Read the poem
  2. About the poet
  3. Summary

About the poet– Sylvia Plath was a popular American poet,novelist, and short-story writer. She was known for her painful life and tortured soul. Her poems are mostly confessions about her painful life.


Lady Lazarus is one of Sylvia Plath’s most controversial poems, where she pens down her emotions related to her failed suicide attempts. Sylvia Plath is well known for her confessional poems, where she wrote the stories about her painful life. She has tried to kill herself multiple times, but everytime was saved. In this poem, she talks about those suicide attempts and how she was given back with a new life everytime.

‘Lazarus’ is a Biblical character, who was brought back to life three days after death. The poet compares herself to Lazarus, because she was given a new life after her suicide attempts. In the beginning of the poem, Plath directly refers to her suicide. She says that she has once again committed suicide, something that she tries in every ten years. She manages to kill herself and come back to life again. She calls herself a miracle, and compares her pale skin to ‘Nazi lampshade’. The Nazis made lampshades from the skin of the Jews during the Holocaust. The poetess makes a horrible comparison here. The readers are able to feel the pain she was suffering throughout her life. Then she asks the readers to ‘peel off the napkin’, which means to look at her real self without any mask. If people actually got a view at her soul, they would be terrified. Although her flesh is alive, her soul has been dead for years. She relates herself to a corpse with a decaying body. She also says that her sour breath, and the smell of the decaying body would vanish soon.

Plath continue to express the hollowness in her soul. She tries to convey the idea that her soul is decaying gradually, although her body is alive. Then she says that soon her decaying body would get restored and she would be alive again. She compares herself to a cat with nine lives. This is her third attempt of suicide and she would not die until she makes nine attempts at it. Every decade, she has tried taking away her own life. Then the poetess mocks the people looking at her resurrection while crunching peanuts, pushing each other to get a better view, as if it’s all just entertainment for them. They remove the burial cloth from her body as she wake up, just as if it’s strip tease. She is frustrated at the viewers who do not allow the poetess to remain dead in the grave. She realizes that she is actually alive, as she looks at her hands, feet, and her flesh. But she wishes to be in the grave instead. She is the same woman that she was before death. Plath the gives us the explanations about her suicide attempts. The first time was an accident, when she was just ten years old. She had not done it on purpose. She doesn’t reveal the age that she committed her second suicide attempt. However, as she mentioned that she attempts suicide every ten years, we can assume it was when she was twenty. During her second attempt, she had sealed herself from the world like a sea shell. Those who saved her, had called her out of that suffocating place. She imagines that people are removing worms from her dead body as if they are pearls.

Sylvia Plath (Author of The Bell Jar)
Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath refers to death as an art. It is somewhat a talent that the poetess excels in. She has become an artist of death, as she has tried to take her life multiple times. The readers can get an idea of her disturbed mind from this reference itself. She keeps on trying to improve this form of art by trying to do it better everytime. The only relief from the sufferings is death. However, everytime she tries to do it, she ends up being saved and forced to suffer those tortures again. Everytime she returns back and face the people, she feels as if it’s all theatrical. She feels as if she has to act again in front of the people starring at her with disdained faces. She feels frustrated when people look at her wounds and ask her how she is feeling. She compares herself to an object that is kept or public display. They must pay her as a charge to look at her.

Then the poetess reveals about the reasons behind her sufferings. She refers to ‘Mr. Doctor’ and ‘Mr.Enemy’ as the cause of her sufferings. The doctors had brought her back into life only to cause her more sufferings. Thus, she implies that her enemies are men. She says that men consider her as an object, beautiful; but treat her harshly. There are some men who truly value her worth, but most of them only cause her sorrow. The men regard her as their prized possession, something they have earned. But, she has detached herself from her body, and only her traumatized soul is left within her. She continues to blame the men for her miseries. She even blames God and the Devil because both of them are men. She warns the other women to keep a safe distance from the men. She has continuously failed to end her life. She says that now she should stop attempting at suicide and instead take revenge from the men who caused her pain. She has become immortal, as she has defeated death multiple times. Plath warns the men to beware of her, as she has planned to take revenge on them.

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