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It makes sense that Sylvia Plath chose to use a central first-person point-of-view in her poem, “Lady Lazarus,” which is exemplified in the following stanza: “I do it so it feels like hell. / I do it so it feels real. / I guess you could say I’ve a call” (Plath 46-48). Although the narrator could be considered simply a character in the poem (which narrators typically are), in this case it is widely believed that Plath was in fact writing about herself and her own suicide attempts. Therefore, the use of first-person was a logical choice, as it “puts the reader inside the narrator’s head, which allows for an intimate portrayal of thoughts and emotions” (Reilly). Even some typical disadvantages of writing in first-person, such as the “danger of your narrative becoming self indulgent in the narrator’s emotions,” or the fact that, “the reader can only experience the world through that character’s eyes, and so you as a writer cannot share the thoughts and feelings of others, only your narrator’s interpretation of them” (Reilly), worked in Plath’s favor regarding “Lady Lazarus.” The same poem is intended to depict a very specific view of the world and her place in it, and it has no room for an outsider’s view or even any desire to consider one.
Plath’s chosen narrative voice had a major influence on my experience when reading “Lady Lazarus,” as the close proximity to her innermost feelings when she used immediate first-person created an intimacy that made me feel as if she was speaking directly to me. For example, in lines 10 -12, “Peel off the napkin / O my enemy / Do I terrify?” The result is chilling and disturbing, particularly considering that this may well have been the very effect Plath hoped to achieve. She wanted the reader to feel uncomfortable, as she was angry with her audience and blamed them for objectifying her, as evidenced in the following lines: “The peanut-crunching crowd / Shoves in to see / Them unwrap me hand and foot- / The big strip tease” (26-29). Furthermore, even though it creates slightly more distance between the narrator and the reader, Plath’s ancillary use of reflective first-person, or when “The narrator tells the story after the events of the story have taken place” (Dunkelberg 81), remains extremely personal and adds to my feelings of unease when she writes, “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” (37-42). To end, the author’s deft application of narrative voice (from beyond the grave!) sends a chill down my spine and pulls me completely into the poem when she states: “Out of the ash / I rise with my red hair / And I eat men like air” (82-84). I’m left wondering: Am I one of those men? Is my reading of this poem another of her resurrections?
 
Works Cited
Dunkelberg, Kendall. A Writer’s Craft. E-book, Palgrave, 2017.
Plath, Sylvia. The Collected Poems. Harper & Row, 1981, poets.org, Academy of American Poets, https://poets.org/poem/lady-lazarus. Accessed: 17 Nov. 2019.
Reilly, Seb. “The Advantages and Disadvantages of First-Person Perspective.” Thanet Writers, 2016, https://thanetwriters.com/essay/voice/the-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-first-person-perspective/. Accessed: 17 Nov. 2019.
 
 

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