A Critical Analysis of Sylvia Plath’s Feminism as Revealed in the Poem “Lady Lazarus”
Obviously Sylvia Plath is one of most influential in modern feminist discourses. Poem like “Lady Lazarus” is often celebrated as iconic for Plath-advocated feminism. Unlike other modern feminist frontiers’ sincere approach to patriarchy, Plath’s feminism evolves from her protagonists’ deep-rooted hatred for their male counterparts. Indeed this hysterical hatred and antagonism of Plath’s narrator in the poem, “Lady Lazarus” seems to put the sincerity and responsibility of Plath’s feminist authority into question. A female self like man-eater Lazarus is, in the first place, self-destructive and, certainly, not desirable. Yet the confessional mode and the techniques of a female’s self-conjuration ultimately signify Plath’s modernist trends, in modern feminist discourse, to portray a woman’s self-perception of her position in a male dominated society. Obviously, the narrator in the poem “Lady Lazarus” need not be misunderstood as the representative of Plath-advocated feminism. Indeed, ‘Lady Lazarus’ is to be deemed as Plath’s effort to voice the modern woman’s nascent self through self-confession.
Plath’s ‘Lady Lazarus’ is to be considered as a woman’s effort to voice her self in modern society. The narrator in the poem voices her self through a sort of self-confession. In the poem, the confession authority appears to be in a dual mode. The reincarnated lady speaks out her mind before the oppressive authorities: a. the Nazi doctors and b. the gathering multitude around. Obviously Plath’s readers are provoked to align themselves with the gathering multitude in the poem. The confessing self-portrayal, of Lady Lazarus, as a martyr of patriarchy -if not frighten the gathering crowd by letting them take a glimpse at the furious and revengeful heart of an oppressed lady- certainly arouse the pity and fear at the lady’s situation. Meanwhile, Lazarus’s modern female self begins to exist shredding its non-existence of ages.
Indeed both Plath’s poem’s confessional mode and its narrator’s hysterical self-revelation ironically endow the non-existent feminine self with existence; it gives voice to a woman’s silence of ages. For Foucault, confession is essentially a feature, of modern man, which is meant for producing the truth about the confessor’s self, as he says, “the truthful confession was inscribed at the heart of the procedures of individualization by power [and has become] one of the West’s most highly valued techniques for producing truth” (Foucault 58). In fact, Plath’s confessional narrator rather divulges the “truth, lodged in our most secret nature, ‘demands’ only to surface” (Foucault 60).
Plath’s narrators’ common antagonism against men as a community of oppressors compels a reader, though misguidedly, to think of the peculiarity of their behavior and attitude toward men. Such frenzied peculiar violence of one of Plath’s narrator is evident in the following lines from the poem, “Lady Lazarus”: “Out of the ash / I rise with my red hair / And I eat men like air” (Plath, “Lady Lazarus”). Margaret Dickie comments on this peculiarity in the following lines: “Plath’s late poems are full of speakers whose rigid identities and violent methods not only parody their torment but also permit them to control it. The peculiar nature of the speaker in “Lady Lazarus” defies ordinary notions of the suicide.” (324) Indeed it is as peculiar as that of frenzied women who have been deprived of thinking rationally of men, and essentially she tends to be characterized as an antagonist against men, not against patriarchy.
Dickie, Margaret. Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Illinois: University of Illinois, 1979 available at
Foucault, Michael. The history of sexuality Volume 1: An Introduction. New York: Vintage Books, 1990. available at
Plaths, Sylvia. “Lady Lazarus”, 02 December, 2010. available at