Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Analysis of "Blackberrying" by Sylvia Plath

Original poem reprinted online here: "Blackberrying" by Sylvia Plath
More information about the Poet: Sylvia Plath



"Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries."  I kept rereading this opening line for the past couple of days.  There's a dual focus here of the visual of the blackberries and the mindset of "nothing."  With these three 9-line stanzas there is more of a play of what is seen and what is not scene interspersed with technique and the personal in which I still don't get after rereading this poem.

"Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly, / A blackberry alley, going down in hooks, and a sea / Somewhere at the end of it,"  So the blackberry and the description of the setting serves more of a distraction than set up.  Note how the speaker is able to introduce a duplicitous line like, "somewhere at the end of it" which refers to the setting, but seems to be in line with the ambiguous terms like "nobody" and "nothing".  The hiccups like these continues on with the poem the deeper the images are explored.

"Blackberries / Big as the ball of my thumb, and dumb as eyes / Ebon in the hedges, fat".  Note that the description is very specific but also this is the introduction of the speaker who automatically creates a comparison, first the differential in size.

And then the hyperbole, "With blue-red juiced. These they squander on my fingers. /I had not asked for such a blood sisterhood; they must love me."  This is such a drastic shift from the setting description.  And just like the juices, this description causes attention to itself to proclaim an emotion or saying that isn't followed through, "They accommodate themselves to my milkbottle, flattening their sides."  Even anthropomorphized, the blackberries have this discrete accommodation towards the speaker -- they bend to description, emotion, and image.

"Overhead the coughs in black, cacophonous flocks -- / Bits of burnt paper wheeling in the blown sky.  Note the continuous alliteration of the "b" and  "c" sounds as though to simulate the "cacophony" that "theirs is the only voice, protesting, protesting,"  what perchance?  That is not important.  What is important is that the speakers descent into technique and description further develops the "nobody" and "nothing" in the beginning.  The speaker is trying to give characteristics to certain indescribables: the way blackberries mold, the meaning behind the cacophony of voices, "I do not think the sea will appear at all." Plus this want of the sea to be there -- as in the first stanza and to here.

I'm not sure about this part:

     The high, green meadows are glowing, as if lit from within
     I come to one bush of berries so ripe it is a bush of flies,
     Hanging their bluegreen bellies and their wing panes in a Chinese screen.
     The honey-feast of the berries has stunned them; they believe in heaven.
     One more hook, and the berries and bushes end.

I mean the technique is there -- the compare and contrast of the internal and external ("lit from within") the images that don't add up in a surreal or real sense but describes this sense of nothing, "bush of flies" becoming a metaphor that doesn't go anywhere, and the proclamations, "they believe in heaven" which describes the external, but not so much the internal.  But the decay stagnates a bit, "bushes end" doesn't really end.

As does the thoughts of the sea, "The only thing to come now is the sea."  A more permanent want that the speaker wants but doesn't seem like coming.  But the description of where the speaker currently is, "From between two hills a sudden wind funnels at me, / Slapping its phantom laundry in my face."

i'm sorry, I try to analyze a poem standing on its own, but reading Sylvia Plath, I feel this poem portends her eventual suicide -- the discussion of phantoms, the juices like blood, "they believe in heaven."  It's very strong.  And the external acts, does, changes, but the internal -- this  want of the sea is consistent. And why the sea, "That looks out on nothing, nothing but a great space." The sea equals nothing. But within this nothing is the sound "Of white and pewter lights, and a din like silversmiths / Beating and beating at an intractable metal."  The sound which continues like the sea which haunts and which the speaker continues to want.

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