Poppies in July - Miss O` Connell`s English Class

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POPPIES IN JULY
Sylvia Plath
Textbook Pg. 192
POPPIES IN JULY
POPPIES IN JULY
 Word
association:
What do you think of when you see
poppies in this image?
Can you predict what this poem ...
is about?
.....
Poppies
...
...
POPPIES IN JULY
 Read
the text
 General class discussion – first
impressions.



Content of poem
Language
Themes
CONTENT OF THE POEM:

WHAT IS THIS POEM ABOUT?
The speaker (presumably Plath) is looking at a
field of poppies in the summer.
 She is in an extremely agitated frame of mind.
 She is ‘anti-poppy’ and does not celebrate their
beauty or their natural existence.
 She uses several violent and disturbing
comparisons to describe the poppies that form an
extended metaphor....

CONTENT OF THE POEM:

This extended metaphor forms in Verse One and
develops in Verses Three and Four:
V1: The poppies’ intense redness reminds her of
the fires of hell – “little hell flames”
 V3: The poppies remind her of mouths that are
wounded and bleeding – They are “wrinkly and
clear red, like the skin of a mouth.// A
mouth just bloodied.”
 V4: She compares the poppies to skirts that are
covered in blood: “Little bloody skirts”.

CONTENT OF THE POEM:





Poet is worn out and exhausted – even the experience
of staring at the poppies tires the poet.
Gripped by feelings of numbness and emptiness.
Longs to escape numbness and feel physical pain,
such as:
-wanting the poppies to burn her (L.4)
-wants to be punched in the mouth (L.12)
Poppies produce opiates, drugs that put their users
into a calm and blissful state of sleep.
She imagines drinking the opiate in liquid form (L.13)
which would put her into a trance/sleep to switch off
the “Dulling and stilling”.
CONTENT OF THE POEM:

The poet imagines herself in a glass capsule
(see “Sylvia Plath: Her Life” worksheet!!!)
2 readings of this glass capsule:
 A) Reference to the fairy tale ‘Snow White’ –
longing for a deep sleep?



B) (see w/s) In a journal entry (dated in 1963) she
described her existence as being “enclosed in a
wall of glass” – utterly confined.
“But colorless. Colorless”. ???
FOCUSING ON THE TITLE:

Do you think this is an appropriate title?
Were your previous predictions accurate?!
POPPIES: What could they represent?
-natural beauty, life, colour, vibrancy...
-Also, they are the symbol of Remembrance Day –
commemorating the battlefields in Western
Europe on which the British fought during WW1.
When soldiers witnessed the millions of poppies
in bloom they claimed that each represented a
drop of blood shed by on of their own.
?? Could Sylvia be linking this war with her own
personal life struggles?
LANGUAGE
Tone of language – masochistic (desire for selfharm); also depressed tone
 Poem is written in couplets (2 lines per verse) –
choppy lines represent her mental state.
 Extended metaphor of poppies (V.1 to V.4)
 Simile: “like the skin of a mouth”
 Poet uses synaesthesia to convey her
bewildered state during this tumultuous time
(marriage breakdown).
 SYNAESTHESIA: Confusion of senses – she
attempts to touch the ‘fumes’, yet the imagined
flames fail to burn her.



Use of vowel sounds.
- BROAD vowel sounds (a,o,u) mirror the poet’s
lethargic and numbed state.
e.g. “I cannot touch you” (L.3)
 “Where are your opiates, your nauseous capsules?”
  long, drawn out words used.


- SLENDER vowel sounds (i.e) mirror the lively
poppies.
e.g. “Little poppies” (L.1) and “flicker” (L.3)
All words associated with poppies include slender
vowels – mimic sharp spite of poet’s voice.

Use of repetition also depicts her mental anguish
and decline as the repetition is present in the
second half of the poem.
 “Little”
 “Capsule”
 “Colorless”

THEMES
THEMES:
THEME 1:
Mental Anguish: Neutrality
-Speaker is exhausted and gripped
by numbness and emptiness.
-The fact that she feels nothing
causes her great mental anguish.
-Her utter neutrality makes her
long for some form of extreme
physical sensation.
-She reaches out to the poppies to
harm her (remains untouched)
-So numb she feels nothing
THEME 2:
Self-destructive tendencies
-The speaker is obviously suffering
from clinical depression.
-Like many depressed people, she
feels numb and she also has a
strong desire to self-harm.
-She sees two ways out:
a) Experiencing intense physical
pain
b) Slipping into a drug-induced
trance
-”marry” (L.12) can be linked to her
own difficult marriage which
contributed to her selfdestruction
THEMES
THEME 3:
Nature
-The landscapes Plath uses
represent her own mental
state.
-She referred to such
landscapes as ‘psychic
landscapes’
-The landscape of the field of
poppies corresponds to her
mental turmoil.
-”little hell flames”
-Hellish landscape –in a
living hell
THEME 4:
Loneliness/Isolation
-The contrast between the
field of poppies and the
single speaker highlights
how alone/isolated she is.
-She cannot touch, she
cannot feel, therefore cannot
be part of the outside world
-”glass capsule” is a symbol of
her confinement, loneliness
etc.
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