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Analysis and comments on Face Lift by Sylvia Plath

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Comment 13 of 23, added on November 19th, 2008 at 12:01 PM.

“Face Lift”
In “Face Lift,” the female protagonist, surrounded by showy, glittering and
artificiality of the so-called patriarchal society, suffers from an anxiety
and is apprehensive at the very notion of getting old because with the
passing of age, she will lose her physical charm and will no longer be
capable of alluring her male counterpart. With this end in view, she wants
to keep her beauty intact through the mechanical process of
cosmetic-plastic surgery so that she may avoid masculine aversion of
herself. She thinks that she has no other identity except sex object
without any human identity of her own in the eyes of patriarchal men.
Though frightened within, but willing to conform to traditional image, she
pretends to show a smiling face and says that it is not very difficult to
bear the pain of cosmetic surgery because of modern sedatives in contrast
to previous anesthetic devices regardless of post-surgical side effects.
She says:
You bring me good news from the clinic
Whipping off your silk scarf, exhibiting the tight white
Mummy-cloths, smiling: I’m right.
When I was nine, a lime-green anesthetist
Fed me banana gas through a frog-mask. The nauseous vault
Boomed with bad dreams and the Jovian voices of surgeons.
Then mother swam up, holding a tin basin.
O I was sick.

Under the sedative effects of anesthesia, she visualizes herself moving in
the palace of Egypt and then returning in the hospital ward:
Traveling
Nude as Cleopatra in my well-boiled hospital shift,
Fizzy with sedatives and unusually humorous,
I roll to an anteroom where a kind man
Fist my fingers for me.
The image of Cleopatra has a two-fold significance for the woman in this
poem. Firstly, she thinks that after this surgery, she will acquire a
beautiful face like Queen Cleopatra, but her attitude regarding herself
changes as she thinks that she is a post-operative patient and does not
possess a royal status enjoyed by Cleopatra in ancient Egypt. The nudity of
Cleopatra geminates the seeds of consciousness in her psyche, triggering
her off from the enclosure of perfect image of living doll. She departs
from this filthy world in search of her true self. She initiates into the
dark realm of semiotic where she cannot clearly see her face clearly. The
implication is that in the darkness of womb like situation her false self
of living doll dissolves.
At the count of two
Darkness wipes me out like chalk on blackboard . . .
I don’t know a thing.
In the inner world begins the enactment of psychic drama as she ponders
over her previous life. In the “tapped cask” of her psyche, she feels
“years draining in to my pillow” and she “grow[s] backward” to become a
girl of twenty. She visualizes herself a girl of twenty sitting in her
“long skirts on my first husband’s sofa,” but this time she is not
brainless doll to satisfy male ego; this time she becomes “broody.” Her
previous false self is not skin-deep; she casts off her false self since
“S[skin] does not have roots, it peels away as paper.” She also feels her
“fingers / Buried in the lambswool of dead poodle.” The speaker’s
dissociation from the old body or false image is violent transformation as
she suffers a lot of pain to suspend the false self of her own.
Undoubtedly, her face has been lifted in this poem when she realizes:
Now she is done for, the dewlapped lady
I watched settle, line by line, in my mirror—
Old sock-face, sagged on a darning egg
They have tapped her in a laboratory jar.
Here the old sock face, sagged on a darning egg is the previous face of a
perfect doll she lets “wither incessantly for the next fifty years.” The
psychic death of the false self culminates with resurrection of a new self
“swaddled in gauze, / Pink and smooth as a baby.”


rajani sharma from India
Comment 12 of 23, added on December 8th, 2006 at 11:13 AM.

I love this poem. The facelift symbolizes getting rid of her past, and
starting over. A facelift makes everything new again. In addition, in the
poem, i believe that she was talking to her old self, the one with all the
bad memories and the flashback. This poem is great.

Aldrich from United States
Comment 11 of 23, added on April 27th, 2006 at 2:34 PM.

Many of the comments here are philistine and ignorant, one downright mean.
Two people know something. The peom? dislocation of identity due to mental
illness and ECT, dislocation in time to a childhood operation, the
anethesia before ECT, the aftermath, age twenty, aging into a labratory jar
and then to babyhood, conveyed in surreal imagery and factual imformation.
Most likely taken from notes of the actual experience: it makes sense.
Good comment Carolyn.

Byron from United States
Comment 10 of 23, added on April 6th, 2006 at 5:59 PM.

Hey, umm melody calling a woman who killed herself a depressed loser, shows
an absolute disregard for the dead and an utter epitome of ignorance on
your part.

carolyn from Canada
Comment 9 of 23, added on February 5th, 2006 at 1:58 PM.

She obviously doesn't like the idea of plastic surgery. See how she makes
the character so deluded and sad. She wants us not to want to be like this
woman. I mean she thinks she can start her life over again!

Wierdo from United Kingdom
Comment 8 of 23, added on January 9th, 2006 at 11:13 PM.

According to biographers, Plath admitted the poem was about her friend Dido
Merwin's plastic surgery. Yet, I think Plath moves beyond the literal
description to create a metaphor for everyone's desire to renew the self in
mind or in body. For more information on Plath and the citation on Dido
Merwin, see Sylvia Plath: A Literary Life, by Linda Wagner-Martin.

Marie from United States
Comment 7 of 23, added on October 20th, 2005 at 5:16 AM.

I thought the poem was wonderful. Perhaps facelift was refering to the way
she was left after her electroshock therapy. A way to make her happy, in
clinical terms. The doctors poking away at her like some specimen. I
abosolutely love Sylvia Plath.

Carissa from United States
Comment 6 of 23, added on October 10th, 2005 at 5:38 PM.

this is a weird poem. i don't understand a single one of them. sylvia plath
is a depressed loser who can't seem to write so everyone can understand
her. AND she needs a facelift. so i'm guessing it isn't literal.

melody from United States
Comment 5 of 23, added on September 22nd, 2005 at 5:24 PM.

Its not about a face lift! she attempted suicide and is in a mental
institute...read the bell jar...

Bridget from United States
Comment 4 of 23, added on May 17th, 2005 at 4:53 PM.

THIS IS THE MOST WEIRD POME I HAVE EVER HEARD I CAN KINDA SEE THE MEANING
BUT NOT REALLY WELL I MIGHT FIND THE MEANING SOON BUT I HIGHLY DOUBT IT

kaitlyn from United States

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Information about Face Lift

Poet: Sylvia Plath
Poem: Face Lift
Volume: Crossing the Water
Year: 1961
Added: Feb 21 2003
Viewed: 19915 times
Poem of the Day: Jul 16 2006


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