I shall never get out of this! There are two of me now:
This new absolutely white person and the old yellow one,
And the white person is certainly the superior one.
She doesn’t need food, she is one of the real saints.
At the beginning I hated her, she had no personality —
She lay in bed with me like a dead body
And I was scared, because she was shaped just the way I was

Only much whiter and unbreakable and with no complaints.
I couldn’t sleep for a week, she was so cold.
I blamed her for everything, but she didn’t answer.
I couldn’t understand her stupid behavior!
When I hit her she held still, like a true pacifist.
Then I realized what she wanted was for me to love her:
She began to warm up, and I saw her advantages.

Without me, she wouldn’t exist, so of course she was grateful.
I gave her a soul, I bloomed out of her as a rose
Blooms out of a vase of not very valuable porcelain,
And it was I who attracted everybody’s attention,
Not her whiteness and beauty, as I had at first supposed.
I patronized her a little, and she lapped it up —
You could tell almost at once she had a slave mentality.

I didn’t mind her waiting on me, and she adored it.
In the morning she woke me early, reflecting the sun
From her amazingly white torso, and I couldn’t help but notice
Her tidiness and her calmness and her patience:
She humored my weakness like the best of nurses,
Holding my bones in place so they would mend properly.
In time our relationship grew more intense.

She stopped fitting me so closely and seemed offish.
I felt her criticizing me in spite of herself,
As if my habits offended her in some way.
She let in the drafts and became more and more absent-minded.
And my skin itched and flaked away in soft pieces
Simply because she looked after me so badly.
Then I saw what the trouble was: she thought she was immortal.

She wanted to leave me, she thought she was superior,
And I’d been keeping her in the dark, and she was resentful —
Wasting her days waiting on a half-corpse!
And secretly she began to hope I’d die.
Then she could cover my mouth and eyes, cover me entirely,
And wear my painted face the way a mummy-case
Wears the face of a pharaoh, though it’s made of mud and water.

I wasn’t in any position to get rid of her.
She’d supported me for so long I was quite limp —
I had forgotten how to walk or sit,
So I was careful not to upset her in any way
Or brag ahead of time how I’d avenge myself.
Living with her was like living with my own coffin:
Yet I still depended on her, though I did it regretfully.

I used to think we might make a go of it together —
After all, it was a kind of marriage, being so close.
Now I see it must be one or the other of us.
She may be a saint, and I may be ugly and hairy,
But she’ll soon find out that that doesn’t matter a bit.
I’m collecting my strength; one day I shall manage without her,
And she’ll perish with emptiness then, and begin to miss me.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Sylvia Plath's poem In Plaster

16 Comments

  1. jack says:

    …a very elegant, moving poem. Yet it seems the theme may be very obvious and simple: dealing and coping with a severe bodily /traumatic injury (a broken bone, and specifically a broken leg).

  2. Kristina says:

    Whether or not this poem is about anorexia i don’t really know, but i truly understand why people suffering from anorexia can feel a connection and see themselves in this. It discribes it perfectly.

  3. Nicholas Jabbour says:

    I have to do this poem for an English exam on Tuesday and I found, after two to three simple reading, that this poem carries an obvious and simple theme. If you substitute the “white person” theme with that of a full body cast, it is clear that the latter is the correct theme, not anorexia.

  4. Blake G says:

    Firstly i can understand how this poem can be associated with an eating disorder of some type, but the conclusion i have come to after a critical analysis towards the poem is the effects of drug and alcohol use.

    The oppening line “I shall never get out of this! There are two of me now” states that she has two sides of her, the drug or alcohol side, and her normal side. The poem carries on talking about the two different people she is and how, at first, she struggles to overcome the mentality but as the poem goes on she slowly begins to fight her drug abuse.

    In the second last paragraph it states “Living with her was like living with my own coffin, yet i still depend on her, though i did it regretfully”. After seeing those two lines i clearly recognised the drug abuse she may of been talking about how could you miss it?

  5. Justin Zanatta says:

    I cannot see why anyone could see themes of anorexia in this poem, saying this I can’t say I’ve ever had to deal with the problem. My first understanding of this poem was one of birth of all things. She depicts her child as a new, white, representation of herself, who grows to take care of her mother and eventually moves on to live her life. Read the poem just once, substituting any reference to the white person as a baby.

    Secondly i see the references to schizophrenia and depression as in the majority of Plaths writings though i believe there is more to this poem than just the obvious, as in most poems.

  6. cat says:

    There is no textual support for these claims of an eating disorder. Just so everyone knows,(ive seen this in various plath comments) she never suffered from an eating disorder, she was bipolar and struggled with some metal issues and depression.
    This poem depicts the differences between the two people that she is, the perfect mother/wife on the outside and the depressed, troubled person she is on the inside. FYI i read that she was inspired to write about a woman in a cast while in the hospital, the woman next to her was in a cast.

  7. Miranda says:

    I relate this poem with the eating disorder anorexia. I’ve had anorexia for 6 years and the feelings she has about the hard, white being is the way anorexia feels. It begins with a mutual friendship, but it tries to take you over. Some wish to fight and that is the desire she is expressing in the final few lines. What assures me that the poem is about anorexia is her description of herself as ugly and hairy. She realizes that her thin body is ugly and the hair is from a condition called lanugo that occurs on the bodies of most anorexics

  8. cait says:

    i think so too that this poem is about an eating disorder of some sort…anoerexia??
    could she be anorexic too?
    cos many people who are depressed have EDs and the other way.
    idk…

  9. Kenni Campbell says:

    This poem works on a multiplicity of levels and uses diverse commonplace images. I believe that Sylvia Plath was a beautiful, sensitive and creative human being who suffered from depression, perhaps the price we have to pay for sensitivity and a creative nature. I see the poem as drawing upon the “commonplace,” or phenomenon, of out of body experience (OBE) which would be consistent with the white identity and the yellow, jaded poet persona.
    There are numerous references in Sylvia Plath’s poetry which I believe are drawn from this OBE commonplace, such as the “spiritshift” in “Love Letter.” These experiences are ineffable, can be wonderful, beautiful, and afterwards leave someone discontent with their “jaded,” corporeal reality. I believe that some depressive suicides are due in part to a desire to step from the “yellow” reality to the “white,” from the jaded to the perfect, from the living to the spiritual which would be consistent with Sylvia Plath’s suicide.
    There is a great deal more to Sylvia Plath’s poetry than is first apparent, and the aspect I describe is only an aspect, but in my opinion it is one of the key aspects to a better appreciation of the poet’s ouevre.

    Kenni Campbell 17th of January, Anstruther, Scotland.

  10. lily says:

    i wasnt sure bout this poem…i had to do it for english and i didnt really no wat it was bout! im not sure but i think it was in another stay in hospital and the ‘white body’ is a nurse who is slowly being the plaster girl i think when she says she is her its just a metaphor or it has a double meaning….

  11. Kimberly says:

    I think this poem is about anorexia. Maybe it’s not, but it sure sounds like it.

  12. Sarah Walker says:

    This is my favorite poem. I think it goes beyond, what society tells you is beautiful, and true. At the start she hated it, then she learned to LOVE it, and depended on it. She couldnt function without it. It is extremely passive aggressive, as is most of her writing. But it can lead the reader into this love/hate idealism of our own bodies, and minds, and lives. It covers all of it. When youve lived a life so long in one body, you dont know how to be anyone else, even tho you cannot stand the body. You NEED it, but dispise it at the same time. Its extremely facinating to watch the circle of life, in one poem.

  13. Sky says:

    The two selves she’s referring to are her role as a housewife and her role as a poet. She suffers a lot of conflict and fitting in to the role of a housewife (white body, plaster) doesnt suit her. It stifles her poetic creativity.

  14. Samantha says:

    “In Plaster” goes into the depths of isolation that any person (especially a young woman) will unknowingly delve into when he or she realizes exactly who they are and who they are supposed to be. Should you stay with yourself and grow of your own accord through your own standards? Or will it be easier to accept the one that others have made for you, the you that is shaped by their views and standards? Is it more important to please others by staying the same, the way they know you? It would make them happy if you stayed that way, immortal child, for then they don’t have to worry with keeping up with your new trends and theories, you have to keep up with theirs, and it is well for all.

  15. Vanessa says:

    It seems to me that in this poem is talking about her having an eating disorder and how it gradually had a bigger grasp of her, but in the end, she tries to conquer it.. what do you think? could sylvia plath have had an eating disorder?

  16. Andrea says:

    I think In Plaster is a very deep poem going into having two of oneself and having to decide which one you like and want to keep before one becomes too prominant and takes over completely.

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