Two girls there are : within the house
One sits; the other, without.
Daylong a duet of shade and light
Plays between these.

In her dark wainscoted room
The first works problems on
A mathematical machine.
Dry ticks mark time

As she calculates each sum.
At this barren enterprise
Rat-shrewd go her squint eyes,
Root-pale her meager frame.

Bronzed as earth, the second lies,
Hearing ticks blown gold
Like pollen on bright air. Lulled
Near a bed of poppies,

She sees how their red silk flare
Of petaled blood
Burns open to the sun’s blade.
On that green alter

Freely become sun’s bride, the latter
Grows quick with seed.
Grass-couched in her labor’s pride,
She bears a king. Turned bitter

And sallow as any lemon,
The other, wry virgin to the last,
Goes graveward with flesh laid waste,
Worm-husbanded, yet no woman.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Sylvia Plath's poem Two Sisters Of Persephone


  1. Brianna says:

    I think everyone can relate to this poem in one way or another. It represents the different sides of Persephone, and we are all seen differently by people we surround ourselves with. The symbolism and adjectives make this a very powerful poem that brings many different images to your mind. My favorite part of the poem was the part about the poppies. I love how Plath used the flowers to represent Persephone’s sexuality and “fertility” as well as her youth and inexperience. The last lines of this poem represent the way many people have viewed women throughout time: “goes graveward with flesh laid to waste” shows that people believe that women’s only purpose is to bear children and give men what they need. “Worm-husbanded, yet no woman” backs this idea up as well, by saying that since she never served a man in her life she shouldn’t be seen as a real and proper woman.

  2. Shanique says:

    For the most part the poem was very interesting. The first time I read the poem I didn’t quite understand what was going on. I figured that the poem described two girls from different worlds somewhat connected. However, as I re-read the poem I noticed that even though there were two voices intertwined there was only one speaker in this poem. From that I realize that the speaker was having some psychological issues within herself to find out who she really is; a nut.

  3. Michelle Santos says:

    This poem is interesting because it tells the story of a Greek Mythology in a way that shows an underlying story of good and evil. On the one hand it shows a woman who is disciplined and who is a portrayal of a perfect woman, and on the other there is a woman who nothing is expected of, who is not even cosidered a woman at all. The woman portrays good, while the person who is considered a ‘non-woman’ is considered eveil because she brings darkness, or winter, to the world while the other brings happiness and sunlight, or summer. I liked the figurative language in the poem and also the imagery. Also, the words chosen in this poem are very powerful and are what make the poem what it is.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I was fasinated by tge descriptions in this poem. It really caught my attention. There are alot of symbolism and questions to be answer like are sisters symbolizing Sylvia. Its great a poem after carefully understanding all the metaphors and symbolism within it.

  5. Lauren Walker says:

    This poem reminds me of the two sisters, Tita and Rosaura, in the novel Like Water for Chocolate. They were a lot like these two sisters because of the diverse paths of life that they were given. One was fated to be married and the other to die a virgin. In the poem, the two sisters have many similarities and differences or “shade and light” between them, just like Tita and Rosaura. The fact that Plath used “a mathematical machine” to describe their lives has a connotation of fact and precision as if there is no room for chance; their “sum” or destiny is set in stone. The sister that has a “barren enterprise” is the unfortunate sister, who is going to die a virgin. She is the one who is left with a lack of a future and her deranged features are signs of her dismay with this foretelling. She dies “worm-husbanded” and being that worms are a sign of decay and decomposition this may be symbolism that she died never married- the decay of her fertility and ability to wed. “Yet no woman” also confirms this interpretation because it refers to her virginity and that she was never made into a “woman” because of a lack of a husband. While the other, is left with a “bright” future full of fertility, since the imagery refers to a lot of vegetation and happiness, since she marries “on that green alter” and bears a son, “a king.”

  6. Ayaz Shaikh says:

    This poem at first was really confusing. But when taking time to break it down it made more sense. It is alot of figurtive speech which through me off.

  7. Lucy says:

    In using the word “sister” in the title, Plath shows that despite the breaking of one woman’s soul into two egos with very different agendas, there is a constant connection between them. This “blood” connection as sisters would have is manifested in this poem as a medium for contrasting a hag and an ideal woman. It shows in a way, that the happiest, most fortunate woman in the world may have a secret. In this case it is an alter ego, her polar opposite, an unfeminine beast.

  8. Brittany says:

    After reading the poem i’ve concluded that there are two halves of one woman wrapped into one. The first half of the woman is the everyday childbearer. The women that takes care of home and handles her responsibilities. The other half of the women is like a representaiton of what a true women should never be. like the ugly duckling. The women who no one loves nor wants to be with. She’s like the inner thoughts of a women who is without true love and fulfillment.

  9. Bilal Chaudhry says:

    this poem is very confusing because there is a lot of symbolism used and is hard to interpret. but what i got from this poem was that there were two sisters that lived two different lives and had different outcomes. it would be easier to understand though if there were not as many metaphors used

  10. zack says:

    Great poem, tons of imagery, very interesting on how he told about the two different sisters on and off through out the poem.

  11. Derek says:

    This poem was extremly confusing after reading it the first time but after going through it after and examining it piece by piece it had made better sense and the words actually did match and come together. What this poem could actually represent is the author in general how her feelings affect her reactions.

  12. Taylor Goodin says:

    I think this poem is very interesting in the way it portrays two sides of women. The fact that first woman seems to be very disciplined seeing as it refers to math may show what the girl strives to be or in fact what she really is inside. The second half referring to the more free side of the girl shows in a way the heart of every girl, a dreamer.

  13. Courtney says:

    After realizing the two different voices in this poem, I was able to have a better understanding of it in general. Personally I didn’t like this poem very much because it seemed as if it was a poetic way of saying what this woman does. It also seems to be comparing what the woman really is, to what she is in her dreams. She wants to be a girly lady but is stuck in her ‘nerdy’ body who calculates problems all day long, all alone. Both of these women are total opposites from one another and it’s quite obvious in the descriptions.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    After reading the poem the first time i was very confused…atfer i read it a second time i got the impression that the poem was a contrasting what one sister was compared to what she wanted to be. Words such as dull and pale were used, then the words such as bring were used…and i took this as words describing what she wanted to be.

  15. Melissa G says:

    I think this poem is about one woman with an alter ego. The true woman is the 1st woman and she wishes to be the 2nd, she is envious of the 2nd woman. She wants to be that ideal woman that bears a child, not a woman that gets married and is unable to give bith. She stays inside and grows old & plae, and then one day die. The 1st woman was never able to fulfill that woman role that the society puts on women.

  16. Latasha D says:

    After reading this poem, honestly Im not a big fan but I have concluded a few observations from it. It seems as if the two people conveyed in this novel are really two different sides of the poet. On one side the poet wants to be this “woman” who has children and is in the outside world and who appears to get high off of life. The other person is the other side of the woman. That is the true her, the one who is lonely and who tries to “figure out” life by using her “mathematical” methods. The general idea of the poem is interesting but overall I didnt really like it.

  17. Ashlee says:

    I think this poem shows two sides of one woman. One side is a woman who doesn’t want to be bothered with the duties of having children. The responsibility of being a woman. She is the underground woman, whose husband is a worm. The other side of her personality is a woman who has a child and who is on earth. Plath did a great job conveying a contrast between these two personalities.

  18. krystoff says:

    Plath did a great job with this poem. When I read it, I see two sides of a person being shown. Whether it be the author or persephone herself, I’m not sure. But what I find in this is that we see one sister is sheltered and not living life to the fullest where as the other one is out and enjoys the joys of life and being considered a women because of her fertilness. And we see the sheltered sister trying to figure things out with logic on her “mathematical machine” because she is either to scared to go out or confined for some reason. But, all-in-all I think that Plath did a wonderful job with this poem that is given proof of her great reputation that she has.

  19. Krystoff says:

    I think that this poem really shows two different sides of a person. whether it be the author or persephone, i’m not exactly sure. But we see the way that plat really talks about the difference between being inside and being out in the world… The comparison between living a life to the fullest and experiencing things and staying sheltered trying to figure out what exactly to do. All in all, i think this poem was brilliantly written and think that it given proof of the poets great reputation.

  20. Danielle says:

    This poem showed two sides of Persephone. The lonely underground sister is barren and has no children. She is the wife of the worm, symbolic of the earth and the ground and living below the sun. The sister, on the other hand, “bears a king”, and is the “suns bride”. She is allowed to be in the sunlight growign and being free while her sister sits in confinement and wallows in her own lonliness. The sister underground is not even a “woman” because she doesn’t have any kids. Her sister is important and is a woman because she does have a child.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Sylvia Plath better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.