Now this particular girl
During a ceremonious april walk
With her latest suitor
Found herself, of a sudden, intolerably struck
By the birds’ irregular babel
And the leaves’ litter.

By this tumult afflicted, she
Observed her lover’s gestures unbalance the air,
His gait stray uneven
Through a rank wilderness of fern and flower;
She judged petals in disarray,
The whole season, sloven.

How she longed for winter then! —
Scrupulously austere in its order
Of white and black
Ice and rock; each sentiment within border,
And heart’s frosty discipline
Exact as a snowflake.

But here — a burgeoning
Unruly enough to pitch her five queenly wits
Into vulgar motley —
A treason not to be borne; let idiots
Reel giddy in bedlam spring:
She withdrew neatly.

And round her house she set
Such a barricade of barb and check
Against mutinous weather
As no mere insurgent man could hope to break
With curse, fist, threat
Or love, either.

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

5 Comments

  1. Jenifer Weber says:

    This poems is about bees looking for honey. I love when the bears eat the bees and the honey. I love poems. Call me!!!

  2. Bradford says:

    Given to great thought of surroundings, this poem equals the human companionship to nature about. Messy, gestured and yet separate that one must make a choice. To be a companion with someone or alone with nature. Equal yet with notice.

  3. djrom says:

    The last stanza of the poem ends in “or love, either”. By separating love from “curse, fist, threat” Plath implies that love is a totally different game from the others but equally as threatening.

  4. Kiwi says:

    wow chris, i couldn’t have said it better myself! i think that perhaps the poem is feministic in its undertones, though plath was by no means a hardcore feminist.

  5. Chris Thorns says:

    The speaker describes the inner thoughts of an unmarried girl walking out with a potential lover, who realises that she cannot share her life with a man since it would result in her losing control over her own, very strictly ordered, life as a single person.
    The ‘particular’ girl – the carefully chosen adjective meaning both this “specific” girl and one who is “very fastidious and set in her ways” – is walking with a suitor in a “ceremoniously” formal manner. The time is April: the season is spring, the time of rebirth after the austerity of the winter. Yet the the “irregular babel” of the birdsong and the “litter” of the leaves – perhaps not fresh on the trees, but the discarded rubbish of winter, on the ground – disturb the girl; she rejects the the “disarray” of the spring and inwardly longs for the “scrupulous austerity” and “order[ed] … white and black” of winter. When she equates her lover’s exuberance with the “slovenliness” of the season and rejects him “neatly”, it is clear that, as a confirmed misanthrope, she has constructed an emotional barrier around herself against the violence and unruliness of men.
    The poem consists of five stanzas, each of six lines. The first line of each stanza has a regular metre [trimeter or tetrameter], which is not in itself immediately remarkable, although it is – unusually – followed by four lines without regular metre. However, the return to a rigid controlling metre in the final line, which has the same foot count as the first line of the stanza but which generally lacks the relief of unstressed syllables, gives a terrible sense of repression. The metrical form of the poem reflects the defence of “a barricade of barb and check” which the confirmed spinster has set against the “irregular, disarrayed and giddy” sensations which bombard her “five queenly wits” – her five senses.
    The rhyme scheme relies almost wholly on pararhyme – “slant rhyme” – that reflects the weakness that the girl feels in her particular position. The two perfect rhymes – order/border and set/threat – employ words of containment, rigidity and violence, thereby emphasising that they serve as a metaphor for the girl herself.
    The enjambment of the first stanza flows at the ‘ceremonious’ walking pace of the couple; the first caesura follows “herself”, which draws the focus inwards to the girl’s private thoughts. A second caesura signals that thoughts are “sudden” and “intolerable”: this girl is unhappy in the untidiness of the countryside, her taciturnity threatened by the “intolerable babel” of the birds, and the alliteratively-stressed “litter” of the “leaves”.
    The second stanza reveals further signs of inner panic. Her lover’s gestures “unbalance the air”: a transferred epithet suggesting that he is cavorting about in an unbalanced way, like a fool. Offended by the “unevenness”, the “rank wilderness”, she “judges” the whole season to be “slovenly”. Here, the word judge suggests a courtroom rather than a pastoral setting, but in the fourth stanza the image of her lover’s foolery is developed using vocabulary from the semantic field of a Court of a different kind. Her five queenly wits (her senses) come under threat from the vulgar motley of a jester, the “idiot” who “reels giddy” in the madhouse of “bedlam spring”; any challenge to her regal isolation is now treason.
    The symbolism of the third stanza reveals the depth of the girl’s need for order. She wishes things to be clearly defined, “white and black”, and “scrupulously austere” like “ice and rock” – unmelting and impenetrable. No room for wild abandonment here: her heart will be “disciplined” and kept “exact as a snowflake”, cold and perfect, but also unique in its geometrical perfection, and through its uniqueness, alone.
    Just as the poet has constructed a metaphor for her isolation, the girl herself has constructed her “barricade” against the threats of men; sadly, the barrier is effective against the softer emotions, too. But whose regret do we hear in the final line? The regret of the poet? Or the regret of the girl?

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