Sylvia Plath’s poem Lady Lazarus gives an account of her life. The speaker talks about her life and her three suicide attempts.
The poem depicts the speaker as a victim before a cruel crowd that watches her in her suffering. She also suffers in the hands of a cruel doctor. She uses imagery throughout her work to communicate her message. She uses the image of biblical Lazarus to show how she comes back to life.
To capture her sufferings she alludes to the Jews and Nazis. The Jews suffered in the hands of the Nazis during Adolf Hitler’s reign because he wanted to wipe them out of existence because they considered them inferior and a threat to the superior Aryan race. The focus of this paper will be to trace references in imagery to horrors of Jewish holocaust under Nazi Germany.
The poem has imagery that refers to the horrors of Jews under the Nazi regime in Germany. Plath talks of doctors who save her life and bring her back after a suicide attempt. She despises the doctors that save her life because what she wanted to do was die and says “So, so Herr Doktor/ So, Herr enemy” (Plath 65-66). The doctors are similar to the doctors in the Jews concentration camps who would do experiments on the Jews in the cruelest manner for instance would test drugs on them, place the human specimen in pressure chambers.
Moreover, they did brutal surgeries on them and even the Jewish children did not escape the horrific medical experiments. The Nazi’s doctors used the Jews as guinea pigs in the medical researches.
In the poem, Plath says, “I am your opus/I am your valuable” (Plath 67-68) which means that the doctors used her for their own benefit. Similarly, the Nazi doctors did so by experimenting on the Jews because they wanted to build their name in the medicine field at the expense of the innocent Jews. In the hands of her doctor, she was “The pure gold baby” (Plath 69).
Thus, the speaker sees herself as a victim of the doctors just as the Jews were victims of the Nazi in the concentration camps. She is a helpless victim because she cannot stop the doctors from bringing her back to life. Likewise, the Jews were helpless under the barbaric Nazi regime and suffered great atrocities in the German society.
The Jews who went to the concentration camps were stripped of all their valuables such as fine clothes, valuable rings and gold teeth and so forth. The speaker in the poem refers to the stripping of the Jews with this allusion “A wedding ring/ A gold filling (77-78). It is said that the remains of the Jews were used to make soap and Plath captures this allegation in “A cake of soap” (Plath 76).
Jews were collected from their homes and locked up in concentration camps. They suffered greatly just as the speaker did because she attempted suicide many times. She alludes to the Jews suffering by talking about lampshades, which illustrates the cruelty committed against them when she compares her skin to them “Bright as a Nazi lampshade. “(Plath 5).
The Jews become labor slaves in the camps and often died of starvation and the hunger would make their eyes pit collapse “The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?” (Plath 19). Just as the speaker says she was a walking nightmare so were the Jews in the camps that lived the nightmare every single day.
The poem Lazarus Lady captures Plath’s attempts at suicide because she could not bare the suffering she experienced. She saw death as the answer to her troubled life even though it became elusive. She used Jew Nazi illusion in the poem to pass her message of suffering. Her poem is powerful because it creates vivid description of the Jew’s plight during the Nazi era through her skillful use of imagery.
Plath, Sylvia. Lady Lazarus. n.d. 16 Dec. 2010.