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.