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The Colossus

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There are also several examples of alliteration in ‘The Colossus’. These are seen in the use and reuse of the same consonant sounds at the beginning of multiple words. For instance, “Pieced” and “properly” in line two of the first stanza as well as “ladders” and “lysol” in stanza two. These examples help to increase the rhythm and rhyme in a poem, especially when that poem is written in free verse. In this 1959 poem, which gave its title to Plath’s first published collection of poetry, she tries to grapple with the legacy and memory of her father, who died when she was eight years old. The poem is notoriously full of abstruse and complicated imagery, which leave it open to myriad interpretations, although most of them center somewhat around her father. (For this reason, it is often discussed in conjunction with “Daddy,” a later poem on the same subject.) Critics have seen echoes of incest-awe in the text, but the text hardly makes the nature of the relationship explicit. No matter what feelings one attaches to the speaker, its brilliantly evocative imagery and mood are remarkable. The speaker crouches in the ear of a giant statue that overlooks the world, a powerful, multi-layered, and disturbing image that many can relate to even if their relationship with their fathers are not quite akin to Plath's. Chronicle of Higher Education, June 22, 2001, Carlin Romano, "Martin and Hannah and Sylvia and Ted," p. B21. Concise Dictionary of American Literary Biography: The New Consciousness, 1941-1968, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1987. The Journals of Sylvia Plath, edited by Ted Hughes and Frances McCullough, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1983.

Seamus Heaney. "The Indefatigable Hoof-taps: Sylvia Plath." in The Government of the Tongue. NY: Faber, 1988, p. 154. She steers clear of feminine charm, deliciousness, gentility, supersensitivity and the act of being a poetess. She simply writes good poetry. And she does so with a seriousness that demands only that she be judged equally seriously... There is an admirable no-nonsense air about this; the language is bare but vivid and precise, with a concentration that implies a good deal of disturbance with proportionately little fuss." [5] I fell into Plath's spell on several occasions during my freshman year. In many ways, I felt a strange discontinuity in my life when I read her, as if what I was studying in class had little to do with the life force struggling to live and burst forth from the earth. One was in my head and the other permeated everything else inside me. Plath, Sylvia, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962, edited by Karen V. Kukil, Anchor Books (New York, NY), 2000.


Stevenson, Anne, Bitter Fame: The Undiscovered Life of Sylvia Plath, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1989. Van Dyke, Susan R., Revising Life: Sylvia Plath's Ariel Poems, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1993.

Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2000, Marjorie Miller, "Sylvia Plath's Uncensored Journals, to Be Published in April, Shed Light on Her Dark Moods and Tumultuous Marriage," p. A2.Broe, Mary Lynn, Protean Poetic: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1980. Booklist, October 1, 2000, Donna Seaman, review of The Unabridged Diaries of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962, p. 313. Like Plath, I became married to shadow without being inspired to proceed. She was something dangerous to me and at the same time so appealing, having touched an element deep inside. I asked myself if this was Plath's inevitable path towards tragedy. Three Women: A Monologue for Three Voices (radio play; broadcast on British Broadcasting Corporation in 1962; limited edition), Turret Books, 1968. Wagner-Martin, Linda, Sylvia Plath: The Critical Heritage, Routledge & Kegan Paul (London, England), 1988.

Guardian (Manchester, England), August 18, 2001, Christina Patterson, "Ted on Sylvia, for the Record," p. R3.

Book contents

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 1, 1973; Volume 2, 1974; Volume 3, 1975; Volume 5, 1976; Volume 9, 1978; Volume 11, 1979; Volume 14, 1980; Volume 17, 1981; Volume 50, 1988; Volume 51, 1989. The eighteenth line of the poem contains another simile. She tells him that he is “pithy and historical as the Roman Forum”. This is yet another ruin and another of a classical nature. The use of the word “pithy” in this line is curious. It’s not entirely clear why Plath chose to use it, but one might speculate that it has to do with the larger metaphor. The Forum might be a “pithy” way of describing her father/the statue. Bundtzen also interprets the poem through a feminist lens. She sees it as an illumination of "woman's psyche as it is shaped by a patriarchal culture." She cites Plath's many allusions - to the Oresteia and Greek tragedy - to suggest that the speaker is conflicted about having to exist in the shadow of a father figure, while remaining desperate for it to speak to her. She is unable to declare her individuality in this context, and yet cannot muster the strength to make a change. From this perspective, the poem offers a more universal critique, rather than merely exploring the author's personal past. I thought a great deal about that moment and I cannot tell you how long I spent until I came to understand, but it was probably years later, long enough so that I recognized that Plath and my despondency went together all too well. My hours are married to shadow. The poem's subject is no longer what's being looked at but the looking itself, or, more precisely, the strained psyche behind the eyes that distorts what's being seen. Plath's extraordinary verbal inventiveness has begun to find a subject equal to it: the shape-shifting the mind exerts on the world, the ways the heart can inflect, even infect, what happens.

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