Robert Phillips: On "The Colossus"

This hatred of men and the unhealthiness of her mental condition continue to ground the figures of "The Colossus." The speaker’s identity here hinges on a broken idol out of the stream of civilization, one whose "hours are married to shadow." No longer does she "listen for the scrape of a keel / on the blank stones of the landing." Man, personified by a ship, has no place in her scheme. The marriage to shadow is a marriage to the memory of the poet’s father, and therefore to death itself. The pull toward that condition is the subject of "Lorelei" as well as the central symbol of "A Winter Ship." That she perceived the nature of her own psychic condition is clear not only in the identification with the broken idol of "The Colossus," but also with the broken vase of "The Stones." Plath makes a metaphor for her reverse misogyny in "The Bull of Bendylaw," where she transmogrifies that traditionally feminine body, the sea (note the article, la mere), into a brute bull, a potent symbol for the active masculine principle. The bull, as in all Palaeo-oriental cultures, is a symbol of both destruction and power. Yet, as with many of Plath’s symbols, there is a complexity beyond this.

From "The Dark Tunnel: A Reading of Sylvia Plath." Modern Poetry Studies 3.2 (1972).

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