Analysis of Two Sisters of Persephone by Sylvia Plath

The poem Two Sisters of Persephone is written by Slyvia Plath in 1956, the same year of her, marriage. The poem is about two lives which 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 which 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 a depth and meaning existence. Initially it talks about two sisters or interpreted as two selves of a person.

The personalities are depicted with contrasting characters and poet moves on to show how in spite of being poles apart that 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 which she lives on Earth and another which she lives in Underworld. Since the environment of Earth and Underworld are contrasting hence the course of life in the two world are also different. This renowned Greek deity has a vibrant, colorful life in 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 on 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 the sisters will be the same. Yet, the contrasting metaphors used at various points are sufficient enough to show the transition of her life.

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The title of the poem allures the readers to think about the mythical character of Persephone the Queen of Underworld. She is the daughter of Earth and wife of Hades. She was to live half of the year in earth with her mother and the other half with her husband in underworld.  This in turn is also a mythical explanation of season changes. So the poem discussed here also gives the idea that the poet may be talking about the two mythical sisters of the Greek goddess. However on detail 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 contemporary world. Since the poem revolves round this two contrasting paths so the Persephone myth of the title helps in giving deeper meaning to the poem owing to her two contrasting life in Earth and Underworld.

The tone of the poem is cynical and bitter which interestingly reflects that though the personalities have a different outlook of life, yet both ends up in death and coldness. Plath shows how both the lives became a waste in this society who 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 waste by the society. Similarly the second one which becomes pregnant and eventually gets married is also not held at high esteem. Society describes her as “sallow and bitter”.

This facts leads the readers to believe that both the sisters/selves undergoes same fate. The fore boarding of death is also distinctly found in the poem as poet through her cynic tone submits her characters in front of impeding and unavoidable fate: Death which will engulf us all in spite of our vice and virtues.

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Two Sisters of Persephone sees an irregular use of punctuations 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 breaks 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 comma 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 gold”, “within the house, one sits; the other without” etc uses binary opposites to refers to the duo personalities of the poem. The later stanzas see increased use of sexual imageries which also serve the same purpose. Furthermore this purpose expressing dual meaning is done by the use of enjambment. The tactful use of enjambments maintains the flow of the poem from one successive stanza to the other.

So to conclude the poem through the metaphor of Persephone renders through the life of the poet. Just like in case of Persephone marriage has altered the life of 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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