A spinster, by definition, is a woman past the usual marrying age or considered unlikely to marry because she lacks the qualities men desire in their partners. One could characterize a spinster as an ‘old maid’, a woman doomed to loneliness by chance and prejudices. The girl who is the focus and protagonist of Sylvia Plath’s “Spinster” is not given to expressions of joy and mirth, nor to enjoying nature during the blossoming season that the poem is set in.
We can see that in fact, “this particular girl” (1) appreciates nothing about the aspects of the world commonly associated with life and happiness.This “particular girl” is not undesirable, by society’s quintessential standards as she is not sinfully ugly, however she does isolate herself by shunning the norms and expectations of a societal courtship. She does express displeasure with the onerous enthusiasms of spring and her company. In reality, she longs for the dignity and cold order that comes from winter and solitude.
Love in essence is effervescent, never stagnant and can never be controlled. Therefore, the romantic bond between the spinster and her suitor could never materialize.We have noticed that throughout “Spinster”, Sylvia Plath chooses the speaker’s words carefully, with poignancy in its placing. She does this in order to reveal a girl who willingly fades into the life of a spinster, rather than fight against it, as most women would do. The spinster Sylvia Plath portrays in this poem is a multifaceted character whose depth is revealed to the readers as the poem progresses th...
rough the innuendoes and nuances Plath is able to illustrate.
A tone of depression, isolation and paralysis of the individual in society is prevalent throughout the poem as well as the spinster’s yearning for order and discipline.The pitch of the vowel sounds is also of importance, as the placement of rhyme schemes relative to the meanings of words and stanzas, the flow of the words to corroborate the connotations of words with their flow; all of these devices blend to provide the reader with a consistent image of a woman consciously shunning a life of pleasure and male company in favor of a world of order and seclusion. Plath’s “Spinster” is not forced onto the path to spinsterhood by circumstance, but rather by the attitude she displays towards the courtship process.The protagonist of “Spinster” is a girl who rejects the offering of the world and her “latest suitor” (3).
This suitor, seeking her affections, takes her on an attempt at a romantic hike through a wood. However, the girl does not describe it as such, but rather as “a ceremonious April walk” (2). The significance of the word ceremonious is to reiterate the fact that this occasion is a ritual and instead of pleasure, it has become an obligation. The girl instead of being enchanted by the intoxicating beauty of nature “finds herself.
.. intolerably struck / By the birds’ irregular babel / And the leaves litter” (4-6).These nuances already show that her paradigm has been distorted, as the songs of the birds are merely unmelodious, and the blossoms of trees look like trash amon
the branches. All around, she finds fault in the flora, terming the surroundings “a rank wilderness” (10).
The budding flowers, so often evoked by poets as paragons of beauty and new life, are condemned by the girl for “she judged their petals in disarray” (11). She appreciates nothing else of the blooming life around her either, calling it “a burgeoning / Unruly enough to pitch her five queenly wits / Into vulgar motley” (19-21).To the girl, spring is nothing but a rebellious uprising against her senses. In all, she finds the springtime an entirely unsatisfactory environment, judging “The whole season, sloven” (12). The girl can find no satisfaction in the spring, and withdraws from it entirely, finally banishing it with queen-like authority to the realm of simpletons.
The suitor’s frolicking attempts at winning her affections are subject to the same cold, detached judgments, for to her, his dances are “gestures” that “imbalance the air” (8). His gaiety is to her, merely foolishness, and has no place in her world.In addition to the disarray of nature, she sees all these aspects and characteristics mirrored in her suitor. As critic John M.
Gambert said “All of the suitor’s – and the rest of the world’s – efforts at wooing the girl with mirth and beauty fail, and only affirm his position as the object of her indifference. ” We see that instead of the delights that romance and life in general have to offer, the girl in “Spinster” chooses to focus and glorify the structured and emotionless tranquility of the winter months and a life lived alone.In the midst of her springtime stroll, she rather ironically daydreams of ice and snow, for “she longed for winter then” (14); in sharp contrast to the state of the spring season that she finds herself in. The speaker’s word choice is seen to be describing the girl’s thoughts of winter, in contrast to the disapproving diction of disarray seen elsewhere, regarding the spring and the suitor.
The girl sees winter as a dignified, almost royal time, “Scrupulously austere in its order / Of white and black” (14-15). The boundless displays of life that she found improper in the spring are absent in her thoughts of winter.Winter, to her, is in perfect order saying “each sentiment within border” and her surroundings are “Exact as a snowflake” (18). These conditions are ideal to the girl; they do not overwhelm her, and this agrees with her “heart’s frosty discipline” (17). Thus, she secludes herself from the emotional world, setting a “barricade of barb and check / Against mutinous weather” (26-7) around her house. This defense is intended for the suitor and those who, would come with similar intentions, as well as the deceitful spring.
Any advances made will be met by coldness of the girl’s winter-loving personality, for she has steeled herself behind a wall “As no mere insurgent man could hope to break / with curse, fist, threat / or love either” (20-30). The cold, reclusive existence is the preferable one for the girl, so she insinuates herself from both the weather and other people. While the word
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