Grace Shulman: On "The Colossus"

"The Colossus" represents a turning point in her poems about the father, about the gods in her mythology, and about what she spoke of as her "death," the failed suicide attempt of 1953. After "The Colossus," those themes are objectified, or developed presentatively, with minimal description. "The Colossus" itself exhibits a rather sassy, defiant attitude toward the stone ruins addressed as father. Where "Ouija" called forth a god, "The Colossus" portrays another creature entirely: "Perhaps you consider yourself an oracle, /Mouthpiece of the dead, or of some god or other." Most striking are the ironic, mock-heroic effects; antithetical to the damaged stone mass, the speaker performs small, domestic labors: "Scaling little ladders with gluepots and pails of Lysol/I crawl like an ant in mourning/Over the weedy acres of your brow . . ."

"The Colossus" is more successful than "Electra on the Azalea Path" because of its frankly unsentimental view, enforced by withheld emotion and by a preposterous, wildly humorous central image. If the massive image here is inaccessible, like the earlier figures, the speaker is irreverent, and is, in fact, weary of trying to mend the immense stone ruins. Plath is still very far from her outcry of 1962, "Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through." She is, however, at this point, turning from the stone wreckage of another being to the ruins of her own. The movement is vital, for it indicates her wish to leave death--her father's actual death and her own dramatized death--for new life.

From "Sylvia Plath and Yaddo" in Ariel Ascending: Writings about Sylvia Plath. Ed. Paul Alexander. Copyright © 1985 by Paul Alexander.

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Criticism Overview
Title Grace Shulman: On "The Colossus" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Grace Shulman Criticism Target Sylvia Plath
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 20 Jan 2014
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication No Data
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