Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Rabbit Catcher by Sylvia Plath Part One

It was a place of force--
The wind gagging my mouth with my own blown hair,
Tearing off my voice, and the sea
Blinding me with its lights, the lives of the dead
Unreeling in it, spreading like oil.

I tasted the malignity of the gorse,
Its black spikes,
The extreme unction of its yellow candle-flowers.
They had an efficiency, a great beauty,
And were extravagant, like torture.

There was only one place to get to.
Simmering, perfumed,
The paths narrowed into the hollow.
And the snares almost effaced themselves--
Zeros, shutting on nothing.

Set close, like birth pangs,
The absence of shrieks
Made a hole in the hot day, a vacancy.
The glassy light was a clear wall,
The thickets quiet.

I felt a still busyness, an intent.
I felt hands round a tea mug, dull, blunt,
Ringing the white china.
How they awaited him, those little deaths!
They waited like sweethearts. They excited him.

And we, too, had a relationship--
Tight wires between us,
Pegs too deep to uproot, and a mind like a ring
Sliding shut on some quick thing,
The constriction killing me also.

Let me start off by saying that I love this poem. It speaks to me about an abusive relationship and how you can feel trapped by love.
But what makes me think that a poem about catching rabbits is about the perils of love?
Well lets take a look.
The first thing we can do is look at the Author of the poem. Once you become familiar with the work of a certain poet, you start to see similar themes in their works. Sylvia seems to have a very interesting view of love. That's something that shines through in a lot of her poems, especially the ones we have looked at so far.

Now lets look at the poem itself. If we remember our bases then we know how to tackle this new poem.

Step One: The read through. Read the poem through in its entirety to become familiar with it.
Step Two: Read for symbols. Take each piece and think about what it might mean and what it means to you.
Step Three: Read for understanding. Here we put all of the pieces together, what we know about the symbols, what we know about the Author, and what we know about ourselves.

Let's start at the very beginning. (A very good place to start.)
After reading it for the first time we see that the poem is talking about a Rabbit Catcher, someone that is setting traps in the woods and killing rabbits. It's an interesting topic for a poem. The first half is all about the setting, telling us where she is and how she feels. The last talks at last about the Rabbit Catcher himself and her relationship with him. She seems to be comparing herself to one of his rabbits.

Now, this is a longer poem so analyzing the symbols might take a little bit more time, but this poem is easier to understand than the last one, I promise.

For today lets start off with the first stanza, the first group of lines.

"It was a place of force--
The wind gagging my mouth with my own blown hair,
Tearing off my voice, and the sea
Blinding me with its lights, the lives of the dead
Unreeling in it, spreading like oil."

The description here is just unreal. "It was a place of force." She feels gagged and blinded by the very setting and even her own hair. Everything about where she stands is working against her. Then it mentions the lights of the sea, the lives of the dead. Picture the way the sun sparkles on the ocean. Normally that's a beautiful sight but here, to her, it signifies something dark. The lives of the dead. From the title we can assume it the lives of the rabbits that the Catcher has killed. They are numerous, spreading like oil across the water.

It's the very first stanza and already we know how she feels, where she is, and what she's thinking about. She's opened up her heart and let us in with very few words.

Next time we'll look at more of the poem and read for symbols to understand what it means.

What do you think about this poem? If you have a symbol that means something to you, please share with us and leave a comment below!

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