I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it—-

A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot

A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine
Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin
0 my enemy.
Do I terrify?—-

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.

Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me

And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.

This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.

What a million filaments.
The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot
The big strip tease.
Gentlemen, ladies

These are my hands
My knees.
I may be skin and bone,

Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.

The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut

As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

Dying
Is an art, like everything else,
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.

It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.
It’s the theatrical

Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute
Amused shout:

‘A miracle!’
That knocks me out.
There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart—-
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.

I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash —
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there—-

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Beware
Beware.

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Sylvia Plath's poem Lady Lazarus

29 Comments

  1. tahiri muhammed attaellah says:

    in fact s.plath was need an protector.without forget that she is in flower age (20-30) she can be more confedence with someone because the right reason was the isolation

  2. Reza says:

    The imagery used throughout the poem is associated with the treatment of the Jews by the Nazis in concentration camps during World War II. Plath addresses the inhumanity of the situation, using such phrases as “A cake of soap,/A wedding ring,/A gold filling” to represent a human being. Plath also alludes to the medical experimentation that was practiced by the Nazi doctors. Plath has often been criticized for relating her hardships to that of the Jews. After all, she grew up in a relatively stable and affluent home and received an excellent education; her suffering was in her mind. Plath said specifically that her poems had come:

    out of the sensuous and emotional experiences I have, but I must say that I cannot sympathize with these cries from the heart that are informed by nothing except a needle and a knife, or whatever it is. I believe that one should be able to control and manipulate experiences, even the most terrifying, like madness, being tortured, this sort of experience, and one should be able to manipulate these experiences with an informed and intelligent mind. I think personal experience is very important, but certainly it shouldn’t be a shut-box and mirror-looking, narcissistic experience. I believe it should be relevant, and relevant to the larger things, the bigger things such as Hiroshima and Dachau and so on.

  3. Reza says:

    The imagery used throughout the poem is associated with the treatment of the Jews by the Nazis in concentration camps during World War II. Plath addresses the inhumanity of the situation, using such phrases as “A cake of soap,/A wedding ring,/A gold filling” to represent a human being. Plath also alludes to the medical experimentation that was practiced by the Nazi doctors. Plath has often been criticized for relating her hardships to that of the Jews. After all, she grew up in a relatively stable and affluent home and received an excellent education; her suffering was in her mind. Plath said specifically that her poems had come:

    out of the sensuous and emotional experiences I have, but I must say that I cannot sympathize with these cries from the heart that are informed by nothing except a needle and a knife, or whatever it is. I believe that one should be able to control and manipulate experiences, even the most terrifying, like madness, being tortured, this sort of experience, and one should be able to manipulate these experiences with an informed and intelligent mind. I think personal experience is very important, but certainly it shouldn’t be a shut-box and mirror-looking, narcissistic experience. I believe it should be relevant, and relevant to the larger things, the bigger things such as Hiroshima and Dachau and so on.

  4. Vin says:

    Sylvia Plath almost killed herself when she was ten by accident. In the first stanza she declares that she tries to commit suicide every ten years. “I have done it again. One year in every ten.” When Sylvia was 20 she attempted suicide for the first time(first because she was trying to kill herself the second time). Lazarus as was previously mentioned is biblical alussion to Lazarus who was reserected by Jesus. She was found in a crawl space under her house and was brought back from the brink of death. She refers to “a Nazi lampshade” which were rumored to be made out of the skin of people who were murdered in the concentration camps. This was put in the poem to show that her internal and mental suffering was as great as that of the physical suffering of the people in concentration camps. This poem was written one year prior to her second suicide attempt. Sylvia succeeded in killing herself in her second attempt. She sealed her children’s door shut; covering every crack with a towel. She then set out breakfast for her kids when they would wake up in the morning. She proceeded to put her in her oven and turn on the gas and killed herself.

  5. joan says:

    i’m not much into poetry but i love this one. i’m always interested in something i can relate to. this poem was quoted in the movie sylvia and i think it’s about suicide. always tryin to finally end it at all but the title lazarus suggests of keep coming back.

  6. sue says:

    someone may have written this already but i don’t believe this is about feminist ideals at all. i can clearly see from this poem that this is most likely sylvia equating her death with lazarus and equating her suffering with the holocaust. she was brought back from the dead like lazarus and didn’t want to be, and also her foreshadowing is quite apparent. she obviously places suicide as a piece of art–capitalizing “Number Three” as if it is actually a piece of artwork? she is burning inside like the jews were burning in concentration camps, and i believe this may be one of (if not the best) of plath’s poems.

  7. S G says:

    I thought that the reference to Lazarus was biblical – Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, who was brought back from the dead by Jesus. Comments?

  8. Anna Regan says:

    LADY LAZARUS

    This poem is about a vulnerable person, sylvia, who despite being strong/immortal? was vying for the blessing of others. e.g. father/ Ted
    Lazarus relied on another to be raised.
    So despite the seeming anger/strength individuality in the author there was never that true autonomy /independance.
    The suicide attempts reflect this hopelessness at achieving self worth independant of the man.
    Hence the last line: and i eat men like air
    men being likened to an eternal/essential thing
    YET not sustaining to ‘eat’
    so an inappropriate relation to men/

    please post on LAZARUSpoem analysis for me* the page is down on my server

  9. tarya says:

    this poem is by far one of my favorites i was able to analyze this very easily and even connect with it on a deep level. i love poems about suicide and depression for a couple of reasons one i can relate to them and 2 i like poems that are riddled with emotion. i feel the deeper the more pain or compassion the better it connects with the reader on many levels. i love this poem if only the great sylvia plath was here today to see how far her work has come

  10. Fernando says:

    It is by far the greatest poem I’ve ever read. I believe that she made a lot of contributions to the feminist movement and therefore she deserves a place in history books,

  11. Leah says:

    I usually have a very hard time analyzing poetry, but Plath’s confessionalist works are clear to me. As one of the previous commentors noted, only she knows exactly what she is saying, but we can connect with her meanings through the emotions she is not afraid to show in this poem. She believed that you should take the mundane, everyday sorrow and connect it with something bigger. That is why this poem alludes to the Nazis and the Jews. She is incorportating her emotionnal struggle and her battle with manic depression into the sorrows of the world. She does this so that even those of us who have not posted hours in a mental treatment facility can understand the emotions tied to her suffering. I don’t think she equates herself with the Jews and their level of suffering. She was more intelligent and insightful than that. She just wants to convey human emotion at every level of the spectrum so that even the “peanut crunching crowd”, who are portrayed (quite accurately) as unfeeling, or unable to make the connections between different forms of human suffering and persecution. Another thing she is doing in this poem is contrasting her exterior with her interior. She is powerful on the outside, like the Nazi lampshade, but she is frail on the inside. Her death is her control over the situation; her only control. She was separated with two small children, low on money, and ill. It was all she knew to do at that point. But what kept happening is that she kept surviving, and that was simply the bane of her existence. She was tired of waking up to the “same place, the same face, the same brute…” So finally, she triumphed. She has arisen through her work, and as one of the other commentors said, she lives on through her poetry.

  12. SABUJ SARKAR says:

    PLATH’s Lady Lazarus is a deed of modern society.Through this poem Plath’s expresses her deep feelings and disgust against the deep rooted stubborn patriarchal society.In the poem , as mentioned ‘nine times to die’ and in her personal life also , Plath is a modern Feminist martyr who expresses her revolt against this ill fated society. Plath’s LADY LAZARUS is actually a social deed. It is important in the history of Englishliterature for many causes. It combines the society, politics, economics, as well as personal grudge against society of a love-lorn, desolated female persona.All these ideas are rolled into one.Simultaneously, here expresses Plath’s another attitude of fleeting and escapist mentality like the romantics, but at the end her robust ambition of being resurrected like the mythical Phoenix is certainly optimistic.

  13. Heather says:

    what does anyone think about the pronoun “I” as a tool in this poem? i think it works better than other Plath poems like Moon and the yew tree because of the “I” but the way she makes her self sound tormented riles me. she wasnt jewish, but she used that to detatch herself further from her father Otto, because he was German. to make it that she was as tormented in a physical sense as people who were tortured in the holocaust must be justified by her mental state-but the fact that she condemns people (peanut-crunching crowd) for reading her poems, confuses me-Plath’s whole life was geared towards becoming this amazing writer, to be respected by everyone.

  14. tripp says:

    This is an original piece of art coming straight from the heart of soul. It’s butt obivious that she’s depressed and has mastered the art of comitting suicide but the element thats hidden is here is that she’s standing out against the atrocities of world and instead of revolting against them, enjoying the perfection she’s bringing to her suicidal tendencies. She’s very patient and self centered because it takes her a complete decade to pile the causes up as an excuse to take her own life. One could also interpret this poem in regards of the poet being molested or sexually abused(raped) by the male community time and again which kills a part of her everytime it happens. But it won’t be the correct interpretation to imagine her being raped at the age of 90(9th encounter, a decade for each).

  15. Elizabeth says:

    No, Plath was not Jewish; however, her father was German: Otto Plath, a rather cold, withdrawn expert on, of all things, bees. He wrote a relatively respected book on the subject. Because he was never much of a part of her life, part of her more confessional poetry is the search for understanding of him and of how she relates to him as his daughter, how he has shaped her genetically, intellectually, emotionally.

    One of the elements of the poem that I have always admired is the symbol of things being stripped away from the narrator. Perhaps this is why the skeletal concentration camp survivors become so important in this poem. Her rebirth, her resurrection, is as a new being, having shed those parts which she no longer needs. Perhaps what she loses is the power of society–and men in particular–to intimidate her. The villains of this piece are male, certainly, but, by the end of the poem, after several deaths, she is able to say that she now has power, that she eats “men like air.” Rebirth, for the narrator is not the resurrection of the original body, but the birth of something quite new and more essential, more real than what had died.

  16. Rubaiyat Hossain says:

    This is one of the best poems ever written because it really speaks of a woman’s pain, which is nevertheless a political pain, sylvia plath is a milestone for the women all over the world who are sensitive to their souls, and women who try to avoid the tropes of patriarchy….i wish people would stop analyzing sylvia and take a sip from the pure and true emotion she has to offer because that’s all poetry is at the end…..the purest forms of emotion crystalized in words….

  17. Alan says:

    I feel that the empathy with Lazarus is because that that story wasn’t really about him. It was about Jesus performing a really impressive miracle and his family being so excited. Did he want to come back?

    She’s very bitter about her ‘noble’ rescuers. She doesn’t underestimate their concern – it’s concern for their own heroism. Her attempted deaths make her an applauded star performer. The also make her a product for them – like the ‘products’ of the nazi extermination – skin lampshades, soap, gold teeth, jewellery. Her suicides are trivialised because they stop being about her. They’re about the doctors and family who save her and ‘make her well again’ (without actually fixing the real problems). They can’t meet her where she is – so she sees them as merely profiting from her misery.

  18. Tanya says:

    Its a theatrical, just as she says it is. The rush bleeds into her pen and she is caught again by her wave. what saddens me is that everyone sees her poetry as grim including her ex husband Ted Hughes, whereas she manages to touch another vibe for me. its more or less like a farce that stays on too long or an emotion that is very self expressive. hard to explain it, but at least i tried! Here’s to reading your poems kid. Its a pity you never knew how much its made a difference!

  19. holden (named after catcher in the rye) says:

    awsome poem, really grabed my attention. But is she Jewish?
    Ass Monkey?
    p.s is Becky, Vuli and Becky?
    if so rock on man!!!

  20. Weston Fillman says:

    I absolutely love the nazi and biblical allusion. It is one of the greatest poems I have ever read. Poems like this chill your spine and create a horrific yet empowering notion within the reader.

  21. Leonard Low says:

    Sylvia Plath has gone to great lengths to craft this poem for maximum emotional impact. Her choice of contrasting metaphors (The Holocaust, and religion, both juxtaposed starkly against the “peanut-crunching crowd” of a show) is immediately unsettling, and each word seems to have been carefully chosen to strike hard at the reader’s nerves and heart.

    Rather than approaching it as an autobiographical commentary (or prediction) on her life, I think it serves better as a “confessional” snapshot of her emotional and mental state at the time the poem was written. Death frightens her, it is scary as hell, her close encounters with it have been full of worms and decay, and she regrets her previous brushes with it: “What a trash / To annihilate each decade”. Yet she’s morbidly compelled by her near-death experiences, to write about it is such detail, and trivialises her return from death as a kind of show, and not without some pride: “I do it exceptionally well”.

    Each experience destroys her, so that the final stanzas deal with people examining her, and finding nothing human left: “A cake of soap” (fat and ash left over from burning flesh) “A wedding ring / A gold filling” – traces of a life lived, a story told, but no life left. In the final stanza, she warns that she will again get stronger, and phoenix-like (“Out of the ash / I rise with my red hair”), destroy those around her again.

    It’s controversial, it’s frightening, it’s draining… love it or hate it, it’s anything but ordinary. A fantastic poem.

  22. Zachary says:

    I like this poem very much. It isn’t so much the poem I like but the feeling it gives, what it hints at. Through out the poem she is talking about suicide, but at the end she talks about rebirth from the destruction and how the newly emerged person is much stronger than the first.

  23. Maria says:

    This poem is really strong and powerful. With out even knowing a slightest thing about the author’s background, the reader knows that the poet was depressed and unhappy. The author compares herself to a cat, a mystic creature, thus saying that no one will know what she really feels, yet it is really easy to see if you look hard enough. After attempting her first suicide, she knew she had to wait another decade to try again. With the words “What a trash/ To annihiliate each decade.” Plath is saying that she hates to wait until her next attempt, yet she must because she sees it as a form of art and everything in art has to be perfect. A really strong poem, it carries a lot of feelings and emotions, it is one of her best ones.

  24. Taylor says:

    She is a brillent writter she comments on how many time she tries to commit sucide 1 out of ten this signaled her to try to do it agian in her 30’s before she even tried it she hasn’t manageg it yet and im not sure if she thinks she is going to the e=next timeNumber Three is capitilized because she hasn’t done it a third time she wants everyone to enjopy her perfection of her third dealth dealth is art and art is perfect when accomplished by dealth is what she is saying when she said it happened at 10 she almost drowned people don’t know whether it was on purpose from her fathers dealth or from a accident. This talk’s about her father and her dad at the same time

  25. Gloria says:

    Brought back to life from death by Christ. See John 11.

  26. Britnee says:

    A historical approach can be applied, naturally, in terms of Sylvia Plath’s one struggle with depression and suicidal tendencies, in which she refers to occur once a decade. Rebirth is a theme I get from this poem for instance in the lines “The peanut-crunching crowd / Shoves in to see / Them unwrap me hand and foot — /”, “The pure gold baby”. Like ressurection or something. She comes back from the dead, uses one of her nine lives. I think the shift in tone, where at first, she takes responsibility for her suicide attempt at 20, then makes comments about ” Herr God, Herr Lucifer, O my enemy, means at first it was all her who wanted to end her life, and now, it seems something or someone is pushing her to think about it again. Maybe her husband.
    What is Lady Lazarus? Something to do with God or Christ or something?
    Sylvia Plath is regarded as a depressing poet, but wow, I really like her.

  27. Becky says:

    This is probably the best of works by Sylvia as it is the easiest to be understood. People trying to read Ariel can sit and ponder the poem for as many hours as they wish, and still not glean as much from that poem as with Lady Lazarus. The references to her depression and her suicide are so glaring blatant that it would be hard to miss them. The references to the Nazi holocaust are so poignant that it adds an atmosphere of familiarity, knowing that Sylvia considered herself Jewish, whether she be of that origin or not. The entire poem is based around her intent to end her life and the passage she takes. The most interesting fact in this poem is that it states ‘One year in every ten’, which I interpret to mean that it is her 3rd attempt and 30th year of life, and it is uncanny that it is in that 30th year that she actually succeeded in ending her life. A most poignant poem by one of the greatest authors who never knew her own success.

  28. jeffrey says:

    herr lucifer.. she mentions her husband twice in this poem.
    the holocaust references are stunning.
    i am stunned by this work..

  29. squid says:

    tis a brilliantly written poem and should have been added to this website long ago. sylvia plath is a women of prestige and i find this to be one of her best works.

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