They are always with us, the thin people
Meager of dimension as the gray people

On a movie-screen. They
Are unreal, we say:

It was only in a movie, it was only
In a war making evil headlines when we

Were small that they famished and
Grew so lean and would not round

Out their stalky limbs again though peace
Plumped the bellies of the mice

Under the meanest table.
It was during the long hunger-battle

They found their talent to persevere
In thinness, to come, later,

Into our bad dreams, their menace
Not guns, not abuses,

But a thin silence.
Wrapped in flea-ridded donkey skins,

Empty of complaint, forever
Drinking vinegar from tin cups: they wore

The insufferable nimbus of the lot-drawn
Scapegoat. But so thin,

So weedy a race could not remain in dreams,
Could not remain outlandish victims

In the contracted country of the head
Any more than the old woman in her mud hut could

Keep from cutting fat meat
Out of the side of the generous moon when it

Set foot nightly in her yard
Until her knife had pared

The moon to a rind of little light.
Now the thin people do not obliterate

Themselves as the dawn
Grayness blues, reddens, and the outline

Of the world comes clear and fills with color.
They persist in the sunlit room: the wallpaper

Frieze of cabbage-roses and cornflowers pales
Under their thin-lipped smiles,

Their withering kingship.
How they prop each other up!

We own no wilderness rich and deep enough
For stronghold against their stiff

Battalions. See, how the tree boles flatten
And lose their good browns

If the thin people simply stand in the forest,
Making the world go thin as a wasp’s nest

And grayer; not even moving their bones.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Sylvia Plath's poem The Thin People

9 Comments

  1. deeandraha says:

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  2. ruffordkes says:

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  3. eviemcfar says:

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  4. o says:

    This page is entitled analysis and comments, while some of you have succeeded in pointing out the obvious lack of backing on certain statements, the greater of you have failed at all but offering praise to the poem and poet. While understandably the first comment may seem to be of rudimentary intellect but so is the fact that too many here fail to recognize that it is someone’s opinion, the mere fact that it has no relevant proof for its statement does not in any way mean that no proof can be found for it.

    Yes i agree that this poem is most likely about the holocaust and anti-semitism, but look at Plath’s word choice and tone, there is a certain air to it that possibly comments on the victims eventually victimizing themselves. No where in the poem are the thin people done any harm by anyone but themselves. She seems to communicate that their mere presence ruins her picture perfect world.

    Was that what was being communicated? When looking at it within the context of who Plath is or at least who she was conceived to be, then quite possibly this poem is a commentary on how the perfect world she was placed in may not have actually been the right one.

    So yes, this poem may have everything to do with the literal thin people. Men and women starving themselves in order to be embraced by society is not exclusive to “pop-culture”, if you do not believe me on this then surely you must also believe that the use of corsets are of “our” time. At plath’s time and long before it being thin was a requirement for women and quite possibly this poem was as previously stated her commentary on the views on women, and the self-masiquistic procedures they must put themselves through in order to achieve what society wanted them to achieve.

  5. Bee says:

    Kylie, Your comment was stated without thought.
    I am a high school student, and even so, i understand the meaning behind this.
    This poem has been a favourite of mine since i was 12 years old. If a 12 year old can interpret plath with a greater understanding than you, you may wish to take a look at yourself. Syliva Plath is a Brilliant writer,
    Bronte

  6. Jesi says:

    Yes… this poem has nothing at all to do with skinny people in pop culture. 1) the Holocaust is a reoccuring theme in Plaths poems. 2) there was not an obession with being thin when the poem was written. 3) I dont think Plath would waste her time writting about pop culture in that manner

  7. Abby Thomason says:

    I just read some comments on Sylvia Plath’s “The Thin People” and they are some of the most shallow and ridiculous things I have ever heard. There is no way that Plath wrote that poem about thin people in movies… it is so much more deep than that! The thin people she is refering to have to be the Jews during the Holocaust. The reference to movies, which say “the thin people / Meager of dimension as the gray people / on a movie-screen” is talking about the movies they showed about WWII and the Holocaust. The issue is that the rest of the world is being taken down because it isn’t dealing with big issues that need to be dealt with, like the Holocaust. I don’t mean to sound rude, but I just thought that it should be clear that, although there probably are some anorexics out there starring in movies, Plath’s poem is not about that… at all.

  8. Iris says:

    I thought that I had heard the most stupid thing I had ever heard of one day from my mother, I am happy to say that kylie from australia has unwittingly relinquished my mother as the sole owner of the most flaky comment I have ever heard (willingly). The poem is beautiful, and I find it so interesting that in a time that was percieved as a time of more curvy woman, being thin rides on the lips and talent of one of the best poets of the last century.

  9. Kylie says:

    The poem means what it means. The simplest thing really: thin people in movies.

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