Off that landspit of stony mouth-plugs,
Eyes rolled by white sticks,
Ears cupping the sea’s incoherences,
You house your unnerving head — God-ball,
Lens of mercies,
Your stooges
Plying their wild cells in my keel’s shadow,
Pushing by like hearts,
Red stigmata at the very center,
Riding the rip tide to the nearest point of

Dragging their Jesus hair.
Did I escape, I wonder?
My mind winds to you
Old barnacled umbilicus, Atlantic cable,
Keeping itself, it seems, in a state of miraculous

In any case, you are always there,
Tremulous breath at the end of my line,
Curve of water upleaping
To my water rod, dazzling and grateful,
Touching and sucking.
I didn’t call you.
I didn’t call you at all.
Nevertheless, nevertheless
You steamed to me over the sea,
Fat and red, a placenta

Paralyzing the kicking lovers.
Cobra light
Squeezing the breath from the blood bells
Of the fuchsia. I could draw no breath,
Dead and moneyless,

Overexposed, like an X-ray.
Who do you think you are?
A Communion wafer? Blubbery Mary?
I shall take no bite of your body,
Bottle in which I live,

Ghastly Vatican.
I am sick to death of hot salt.
Green as eunuchs, your wishes
Hiss at my sins.
Off, off, eely tentacle!

There is nothing between us.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Sylvia Plath's poem Medusa


  1. Sean says:

    I agree that there is a jelly fish metaphor at work.

  2. Stephanie says:

    The poem, Medusa, highlights the oppression and incarceration Plath feels in the relationship with her mother. She describes her mother as a controlling figure in her life, unable to let her go and feels trapped by her religion. Ambiguity is also evident as Plath seems to be very dependent on yet cynical of her mother.
    A poetic technique of allusion is used where Plath compares her mother to the goddess of Greek mythology, ‘Medusa’. Medusa was a cruel monster who turned people into stone and by using this technique the reader senses the loathing Plath feels before the reading the poem.
    Plath’s hatred for her mother is clear with phrases like ‘squeezing the breath from the blood bells of the fuscia’ and ‘off, off, eely tentacle’. The active verb “squeezing” potently demonstrates the power Plath feels her mother has as is she is able to crush her. Her choice of colour imagery in the diction of “blood” and “fuschia” implies that it is the life blood of Plath that her mother can coerce.
    However the theme of ambiguity is shown when Plath describes her dependence longing for a relationship with her mother, “Did I escape, I wonder? My mind winds to you, old barnacled umbilicus, Atlantic Cable…in a state of miraculous repair” The use of the adjective “barnacle” indicates the parasitical nature of the relationship. Plath suggests, through the use natural imagery, that no matter the distance between them, in this case the Atlantic Ocean, they will always have an unbreakable bond, ‘you steamed to us over the sea’.
    Plath’s childhood was dominated by a strict Methodist element. Plath feels guilty about her physical relationship with Ted Hughes and feels her mother judges her harshly and critically. There are many religious references where Plath portrays her mother’s dominance ‘your unnerving head – God ball’. Plath tries to separate herself from her mother’s religion due to her guilt. A tone of indignation and sarcasm can be sensed when she uses the connotation ‘I shall take on bite of your body…ghastly Vatican’. This phrase emphasises her hatred for her mother, as well as being a religious reference.

  3. james reich says:

    American Gorgon: Reading Sylvia Plath’s Medusa…
    Analysis of the poem can be found at

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