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Sylvia Plath

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Something else / Hauls me through air. . . .
Added by: Samuel Biagetti
I could not comprehend this poem much at all till I learned that: Sylvia Plath took riding lessons in Devon on a horse named "Ariel," which means, in Hebrew, "God's Lioness."

Also, anyone who's read The Bell Jar might remember Buddy Willard's mother saying that "a man is an arrow, and a woman is the place it shoots off from." Well, Sylvia has something to say back to that in this poem, doesn't she?
Added by: Nayyer Qureshi
The whole poem is in the form of a flick in which different images follow one another in quick succession. The pace with which the images change gives us the impression that the speaker is flying on a winged horse and she wants to get away FROM this world. In this respect it is a confessional poem in which we find her desire for death. The desire to leave behind all the shoddy conventions, traditions and customs of this world finds expression in the image of Godiva unpeeling “dead hands and dead stringencies”.

The method of leaping FROM one image to another represents her mental condition .All the images are blurred signifying the hazy condition of her mind. The disintegration going on within herself can be seen in the disintegration of different images: the horse emerges FROM the darkness of morning, the sun begins to rise as Ariel rushes uncontrollably across the country side (“The furrow/Splits and passes”), the rider tries to catch the brown neck of the horse (“The brown arc”) but instead “tasting” the blackberries on the side of the road. In seconds the speaker is White Godiva, freeing herself FROM the “dead hands and dead stringencies”, then almost simultaneously, she is “foam to wheat”. Then the ride across the wheat fields suddenly turns INTO ocean voyage (“a glitter of seas”). The horse’s body and that of riders merge. In fear or ecstasy she hears her own cry as if it is of a child. It first “melts in the wall” and then like an arrow she flies towards the burning sun that has now risen---“the red Eye, the cauldron of morning”. The whole course of her journey seems to SHOW her “suicidal” impulse, but still the poem ends with a hopeful note—the rising of the sun. Perhaps for Plath , death meant the only relief FROM the miseries and pains of this world, a symbol of happiness.

Added by: Nayyer Qureshi
Just as Ariel in Shakespeare's "Tempest"is neither male nor female likewise the poem is also androgynous in its nature, HAVING both the male and female images in it.The female images SHOW the helplessness, powerlessness and fragility of a women ,who has to struggle hard in a gender based and biased society..Such images include "White Godiva"(a woman who had to face an awkward situation because of her husband, not much different FROM Plath),"wheat"(mother Earth), water.Plath says at one point that"I dislike being a girl, because as such I must come to realize that i can't be a man.In other words i must pour my energies through the direction and force of my mate.And yet, it is as I feared:I am being accustomed and adjusted to that idea".The desire to be a man denotes the desire to get power and strength.

In ORDER to complete her journey of life, in the other words in ORDER to survive in this world, the speaker needs that force.She wants to be like an "arrow", and she does become so for the time being.But the fact remains that she is a female, still vulnerable and weak...now she is the "dew that flies".And dew will surely be consumed by the power of sun.The speaker is fully aware that in her desire for the power she has arrogated destruction for herself, for she refers to her journey as "suicidal".
Added by: Nayyer Qureshi
The fact that Ariel is the name of Plath’s beloved horse not only gives the poem an autobiographical touch but also reminds us of another horse—Pegasus, a winged horse in Greek mythology that is the symbol of Romantic imagination .In the poem the experience of riding a horse becomes a metaphor for the process of writing a poem. Plath wrote that poem at a time she had already suffered enough—nervous breakdown, an appendectomy, two births, a miscarriage, disintegrating marriage, continual economic pressure. So it was a time when she was fed up of her life and wanted to start anew not only in life but also in literary career. In the process of finding a new poetic voice she passed through several “splits and passes”(stages), several delicious and tempting enticements come between the writer and her work. But these “Black sweet blood mouthfuls” did not impede her journey. She removed these restrictions ( like White Godiva) which threatened her gift of writing and was finally able to write a poem which amazes us by its mind boggling visual effects and sumptuous sensuousness.
Added by: P. Alexandra V.
This is one of the most complicate of Sylvia Plath’s poems. If I start analyzing the title it could refer to different things. First, Ariel was the name of her favorite horse. Also, in the Old Testament it is the name for the Holy City of Jerusalem. This poem catch the readers in a mysterious experience by using horse imaginary.
The whole poem is organized in a form in which different images follow one another very fast. Plath wants to give us the impression that the speaker is flying on a horse and that she wants to get away from this world. This poem describes a dawn ride that begins with the instant that the speaker, mounts her horse in a action of “Stasis in darkness”, continues as she gathers speed and reaches the climax when the landscape kind of disappeared and she is pushed through air. On the first lines we found intangible as well as real qualities:”Stasis in darkness, Then the substanceless blue, Pour of tor and distances.”

In a way the whole poem combine the rider, the horse, and the earth, trying to make us see them as one, “God’s lioness, how we grow, Pivot of heels and knees...”

Having on mind the psychological problems that she is going through, she refers to a strong death wish. But at the same time, it could be about sex, the experience of riding a horse or giving birth; what it is clear is that she wants to express a felling of scape.
Her desire for death is expressed by her wish of leaving behind all the traditions and customs of this world. We get this impression in the image of “Godiva unpeeling, dead hands and dead stringencies."
Added by: Joe
I was surprised by her use of racist language, without quotation marks as late as 1963. Why?
Added by: Sally
As usual people refer to Plath's "death wish" expressed in her poems which is constantly reverted back to the difficulties she experienced with her mental health. True, it can be read as a literal death that the "I" of the poem (if indeed there is and "I" at all) can be many different things - Plath after all was not a straight forward, literal wordsmith.

The death that Plath saw as so necessary both in life, writing, relationships was more like the death of a phoenix only to then rise again from the ashes. She expressed the need in much of her poems for reinvention, self analysis and change; in order to live and to continue to live and express one needs to shed skin, shed old ways, shed old aquintances and social constraints. These are the metaphorical deaths that Plath seems to feel were so necessary - accompanying the dislocation from self that seems to permeate much of her writing. To be able to comment you need to be seperate from that which you are offering comment on, and again this is like a death because while you may observe you can never be involved.

All too many people read Plath's poetry as a constant biographical expose of her desire to die and to flee the world. And while it would appear that Plath was an advocate of flight from the literal reality and representation of the world, it is also obvious that she encompasses and expresses far more complex emotions as the poet and as the differing "I" of her poems than a simple desire to give in to death.

And some of her use of racist language can be referred back to her Jewish heritage and seen as a break through of taboos. Much of her use of language is misunderstood and misrepresented as being racist when in fact there are multiple interpretations of the words she uses.
Added by: Linnea
as it has already been mentioned, this poem was written about a horse that sylvia plath was learning to ride, a horse named ariel.
while she was learning to ride, she felt as though she was getting away from her life. her marriage was in tatters and she was faced with motherhood. she felt clostrophobic. her riding lessons were an escape. her friends would often laugh at how poetic she was about ariel, but we can easily see why she felt such a connection to this animal.
Added by: oli
You may have noticed that Plath refers to herself as Godiva in this poem, legend has it that Godiva rode naked through Coventry (a city in England) to persuade her husband to lower the taxes. So this is again a reference to her breaking free from the claustrophobic atmosphere that surrounded her at this time in her life.
Added by: George Myers, Jr.
Ariel was Shelley's biography also. I once had a British "Ariel" motorcycle which went out of business before Sylvia Plath wrote this, I had a 1956. I wonder, there is a form of romantic poetry, song, etc., that had to do with motorcycle riding to visit ones love interest and riding away, as the British were at one time very large producers of motorcycles, the Ariel, referred to as the "gentleman's motorcycle" even a lambskin seat on some like the "Square Four". It had a "jumping horse" on its gas tank pads, Britain's "nigger" instead of America's "Indian"? Just some thoughts of a rider, loved to freeze with "Sylvia" on the back.

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