The poem Two Sisters of Persephone was written by Slyvia Plath in 1956, the same year as her marriage. The poem is about two lives that are binary to each other. The title, overloaded with mythological significance at once, takes the reader’s attention away. However, the poem is an allegory that discusses the life of a woman in the contemporary era of the setting through the myths of Persephone. The poem is full of metaphorical allusions giving itself depth and meaning existence. Initially, it talks about two sisters or is interpreted as two selves of a person.
Two Sisters of Persephone: Analysis
The personalities are depicted with contrasting characters, and the Poet moves on to show how despite being poles apart, they circumscribe to the same fate. The seemingly direct poem hides various alluring and deep imageries hinting towards various complex issues. The two personalities can be the two lives of Persephone- one in which she lives on Earth and another in which she lives in the Underworld. Since the environment of Earth and the Underworld are contrasting hence the course of life in the two worlds is also different. This renowned Greek deity has a vibrant, colorful life on Earth and a cold, dark life in Underworld with Hades. Plath describes the misfortune of this beauty with extreme delicacy and emotions.
This poem, written in the very year of her marriage to Ted Hughes, can also refer to the stages of her life. From being a maiden, she became a lady after marriage. The marriage changed her social status and life completely. Though she hints that married or not, the fate of both sisters will be the same. Yet, the contrasting metaphors used at various points are sufficient enough to show the transition of her life.
The title of the poem allures the readers to think about the mythical character of Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld. She is the daughter of Earth and the wife of Hades. She was to live half of the year on Earth with her mother and the other half with her husband in Underworld. This, in turn, is also a mythical explanation of seasonal changes. So the poem discussed here also gives the idea that the Poet may be talking about the two legendary sisters of the Greek goddess. However, in a detailed study, one can understand that the two sisters can be interpreted as the two contradicting selves of a single person. And the poem is set in the contemporary world since the poem revolves around these two contrasting paths, so the Persephone myth of the title helps in giving deeper meaning to the poem owing to her two contrasting life on Earth and Underworld.
The tone of the poem is cynical and bitter, which interestingly reflects that though the personalities have a different outlooks on life, both end up in death and coldness. Plath shows how both lives became waste in this society that doesn’t value either of the sisters. The first one is interested in math and values virginity; however, if she cannot find a partner, her life is seen as a waste by society. Similarly,y the second one who becomes pregnant and eventually gets married is also not held at high esteem. Society describes her as “sallow and bitter.”
This fact leads the readers to believe that both the sisters/selvesundergos the same fate. The fore boarding of death is also distinctly found in the poem as Poet, through her cynic ton,e submits her characters in front of impending and unavoidable fate: Death which will engulf us all in spite of our vice and virtues.
Two Sisters of Persephone sees an irregular use of punctuation which Plath deliberately does to delineate the contrast between the two described characters. The transitions between figures are described through semi-colons and colons, which break the flow from one personality to the other. However, interestingly, Plath maintains a strict form of seven four-line stanzas where the placements of punctuations like commas and periods differ. Furthermore, this contrasting characteristic can be interpreted as a resemblance to the contrasting nature of the theme and title of the poem.
Language in the poem is figurative, which often conveys dual meanings. Various phrases in the poem like “Duet of shade and light,” “dry ticks mark time/ hearing ticks blown jail,” “within the house, one sits; the other without,” etc. use binary opposites to refer to the duo personalities of the poem. The later stanzas see increased use of sexual imagery,s which also serves the same purpose. Furthermore, this purpose of expressing dual meaning is done by the use of enjambment. The discreet use of enjambments maintains the flow of the poem from one successive stanza to the other.
So to conclude,e the poem, through the metaphor of Persephone, renders the life of the Poet. Just like in the case of Persephone, marriage has altered the life of the Poet as well. And her life has taken a similar transition. So, she finds the Persephone myth apt to describe her condition and what she is going through. Hope you have found the analysis of Two Sisters of Persephone by Sylvia Plath useful and worth sharing.
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