Sudheer Sreenath Sanjay Hegde Period 5 5/19/99 In Plaster In Plaster was a poem written by Sylvia Plath on March 18, 1961. The poem was written while Plath was in St. Pancras hospital in England, immediately following an appendectomy. Her journals, as well as the letters she wrote to her mother, vividly describe the events surrounding the composition of this poem. Interestingly, Plath also wrote another one of her famous poems, Tulips, on the same day. The events in Plath’s personal life surrounding the writing of this poem were fairly chaotic. Two years earlier, Plath suffered an extreme case of writer’s block while at Yaddo.
She later concludes that her unknown pregnancy with Frieda was the cause of this block. After Frieda’s birth, Sylvia pours her entire life into caring for her daughter. A year later, in early 1961, Plath suffers a miscarriage of her second child. A mere month after this occurs, she undergoes an appendectomy. Plath, as concluded from her letters and journals, exhibited a type of schizophrenia during this time period.
Her letters to her mother, just days before she wrote the poem, create the image of a happy-go-lucky, ever-optimistic little girl. However, her journals create a very different picture. Sylvia is far more critical of her surroundings, constantly saying that she does not fit in to the false optimism of the hospital environment. Her poem, In Plaster, seems to be an expression of Sylvia’s inner conflict. Sylvia’s actual inspiration for the poem In Plaster was a woman by the name of Joan.
Joan was in the hospital bed next to Plath, and according to Sylvia, was in a cast from toe to bosom. In Plaster has a persona, indicating that Plath wanted to express personal opinions and feelings. The title itself can be interpreted several different ways. First, it has the literal connotation of the plaster bandage Plath was wearing following her operation. However, the title also has the symbolic significance of plaster acting as emotional prison, in which the persona is trapped.
The poem itself consists of eight stanzas of uniform length. Each stanza has seven lines, most of which are of considerable length (7-12 words). The poem entails the experiences of the persona with someone she calls a new, absolutely white person. The persona herself is an old yellow person. In the first half of the poem, the persona discusses her introduction to, and her getting accustomed to this new person.
However, the reader sees a drastic change in the last 4 stanzas. The persona goes from admiring the white person to being resentful of her. She becomes quite hostile and critical, saying that the white person has become too overbearing, arguing for more power and influence. This conflict depicted in the poem can be referred to as inner turmoil within the mind of the persona. She does not know which of her personalities she should bear forward, and which she should hide.
The events of the poem can be interpreted as somewhat juvenile, like a teenage girl being resentful of her friend for getting more attention. Plath may have juxtaposed these two personality types in order to represent some sort of inner turmoil regarding her identity. In Plaster I shall never get out of this! There are two of me now: This new absolutely white person and the old yellow one, And the white person is certainly the superior one. She doesn’t need food, she is one of the real saints. At the beginning I hated her, she had no personality- She lay in bed with me like a dead body And I was scared, because she was shaped just the way I was Only much whiter and unbreakable and with no complaints.
I couldn’t sleep for a week, she was so cold. I blamed her for everything, but she didn’t answer. I couldn’t understand her stupid behavior! When I hit her she held still, like a true pacifist. Then I realized what she wanted was for me to love her: She began to warm up, and I saw her advantages. Without me, she wouldn’t exist, so of course she was grateful. I gave her a soul , I bloomed out of her as a rose Blooms out of a vase of not very valuable porcelain , And it was I who attracted everybody’s attention, Not her whiteness and beauty, as I had at first supposed.
I patronized her a little, and she lapped it up- You could tell almost at once she had a slave mentality. I didn’t mind her waiting on me, and she adored it. In the morning she woke me early, reflecting the sun From her amazingly white torso , and I couldn’t help but notice Her tidiness and her calmness and her patience: She humored my weakness like the best of nurses, Holding my bones in place so they would mend properly. In time our relationship grew more intense. She stopped fitting me so closely and seemed offish.
I felt her criticizing me in spite of herself, As if my habits offended her in some way. She let in the drafts and became more and more absent-minded. And my skin itched and flaked away in soft pieces. Simply because she looked after me so badly. Then I saw what the trouble was: she thought she was immortal.
She wanted to leave me, she thought she was superior, And I’d been keeping her in the dark, and she was resentful- Wasting her days waiting on a half-corpse! And secretly she began to hope I’d die. Then she could cover my mouth and eyes, cover me entirely, And wear my painted face the way a mummy-case Wears the face of a pharaoh , though its made of mud and water. I wasn’t in any position to get rid of her. She’d supported me for so long I was quite limp- I had even forgotten how to walk or sit, So I was careful not to upset her in any way Or brag ahead of time how I’d avenge myself Living with her was like living in my own coffin: Yet I still depended on her, though I did it regretfully. I used to think we might make a go of it together- After all, it was kind of a marriage, being so close.
Now I see it must be one or the other of us. She may be a saint, and I may be ugly and hairy, But she’ll soon find out that that doesn’t matter a bit. I’m collecting my strength; one day I shall manage without her, And she’ll perish with emptiness then , and begin to miss me.