Electra On Azalea Path- Sylvia Plath Essay, Research Paper
Sylvia Plath employs vivid imagery and a reminiscent tone to convey her feelings of grief, guilt, and disdain the day she first visited her father’s grave, and the devastating effects his death had on her.
Plath addresses the poem to her deceased father, of whom she harbors a deep daughterly love for, along with a bitterness created when he seemingly abandoned her and her mother when he died. Several times throughout the poem, Plath conveys how she feels as if her father’s death had killed her as well. Before her father’s death, Plath, a na?ve child, “had nothing to do with guilt or anything”. She relays the monotonous comfort her life had before his death, when “everything took place in a durable whiteness”. When Otto Plath, Sylvia’s father, dies, she feels as if she has descended “into the dirt, into the lightless hibernaculum” along with her father, shed of her “dress of innocence”.
Plath disdainfully depicts the melancholy scene of Azalea Path, where the site of her father’s tomb, “[engraves]” itself upon her mind so deeply that in her poem she recalls each image down to the very detail. The bleak setting of Azalea Path, a “poorhouse, where the dead crowd foot to foot, head to head,” is the place her father resides underneath a “speckled stone askew by an iron fence” underneath “six feet of yellow gravel”. Azalea Path leaks dreariness, a place where “no flower breaks the soil” and the “ersatz petals drip…red” in the “rains.” Plath’s disdain is evident when she comes to the bitter realization that her father, whom she both loves and hates for leaving her, is buried here with the poor, as if his life had no more significance than a pauper.
Plath conveys her mother as an image that readily accepts her husband’s death, “[dreaming him] face down in the sea” and attempting to comfort Sylvia by telling her that “he died like any man.” Plath alludes to the nature of her father’s death, “the gangrene (that) ate [him] to the bone”, in the last stanza. Otto Plath actually ignored an infection, and it eventually turned to gangrene, and then death. Suicidal images can also be seen in the last stanza, where Plath describes her “own blue razor rusting at [her] throat”, and dubs herself “the ghost of an infamous suicide”. Plath reveals a kaleidoscoped relationship between herself and her father as she bitterly refers to herself as her father’s “hound-bitch, daughter, friend”. Plath instills her own feelings of guilt upon the reader when she confides that “it was my love that did us both to death.” Again, she reiterates that not only her father, but that she too, is dead. By titling the poem “Electra on Azalea Path”, Plath compares herself to Electra, a mythological figure that was in love with her father.
Sylvia Plath uses haunting images and a reminiscent tone to convey the feelings she experienced when visiting her father’s gravesite, and the shattering effect his death had on her.