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Sylvia's Use Of Senses In Ariel

2328 words - 10 pages

\"Ariel\" possesses power and importance, a certain element of orgasmic stress to the degree to which the horseback ride Plath once took becomes something more—a ride into the abyss of the unknown, a stare back into the eye of the sun, an odyssey to death, a stripping of personality and selfhood, a sort of blatant exposition. To treat \"Ariel\" as a confessional poem is to suggest that its actual importance lies in the horse- ride taken by its author, in the authors psychological problems, or in its position within the biographical development of the author. None of these issues is as significant as the imagistic and thematic developments rendered by the poem itself.
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The two reflections about the name “ARIEL” have often been noticed and pointed out, with the emphasis, from a critical perspective, being placed on the biographical referent.
But there is another possible referent in the title of the poem, which no one has yet noted, although the poet, apparently, went out of her way to make reference, even obvious reference, to it. I refer to “ARIEL” as the symbolic name for Jerusalem. “ARIEL” in Hebrew means \"lion of God.\" She begins the second stanza of the poem with the line \"God’s lioness,\" which seems to be a direct reference to the Hebrew or Jewish “ARIEL”.
Clearly from a close dissection of Plath’s writings we find that she was obsessed with Jerusalem and the Jews, as is indicated in many of her poems.

Indeed, some of the imagery which informs the passage concerning \"ARIEL\" in the Book of Isaiah (29:1-7) appears to have been drawn on directly by Plath for her imagery in her poem \"ARIEL.\" In Isaiah 29-5-6 we read,
And in an instant, suddenly,
You will be visited by the Lord of hosts
With thunder and with earthquake and great noise,
With whirlwind and tempest,
And the flame of a devouring fire
In short, then, the poet seems to be combining these three references to \"ARIEL\" in her poem, and creating a context where each of the possible meanings enriches the others. She even seems to imply this when she says, in the second stanza, \"How one we grow.\" Each of the three \"ARIEL’s\" contributes its part to the totality of the poem, and each of them merges into the others so that, by the end of the poem, they are all \"one.\"

In short, then, the poet seems to be combining these three references to \"ARIEL\" in her poem, and creating a context where each of the possible meanings enriches the others. She even seems to imply this when she says, in the second stanza, \"How one we grow.\" Each of the three \"ARIEL’s\" contributes its part to the totality of the poem, and each of them merges into the others so that, by the end of the poem, they are all \"one.\"

Now, of these three references to \"ARIEL,\" the two that seem most fruitful in terms of an analysis of the poem appear to be the autobiographical and the Biblical In terms of the autobiographical overtones, the poem can be seen as what apparently it is in fact—an account of the poet’s going for a ride on her favorite horse. Each of the details she mentions with respect to the ride (at least through the first six stanzas) can be seen as exact reporting of what it is like to ride a horse. The last five stanzas of the poem obviously move beyond the literal telling of taking a horseback ride and move into something which partakes of the mystery whereby the rider experiences something of the unity which is created between horse and rider, if not literally, at least metaphorically. This change in the theme of the poem is signaled both by a change in tone and by a change in technique, and specifically by the break in the rhyme scheme

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