Critical Analysis of 'the Moon and the Yew Tree' by Sylvia Plath

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Critical Analysis of ‘The Moon and the Yew Tree’ by Sylvia Plath The theme that most obviously pervades the entire poem is that of the isolation of the persona, from everything around her. The persona in the poem is almost certainly autobiographical as Plath had a very strained relationship with her mother, and also often used her poetry to reflect her real life situations and emotions. In the poem she feels disconnected from her cold, distant mother, represented by the moon, often a figure of femininity. However we are told that her mother is not ’sweet like Mary’ (17), whom some would argue exemplifies the form of mother figure. This image also contains anger – the ‘white’ (9) knuckles of a clenched fist, and a ‘dark crime’ (10) that follows her mother, as inextricably bound to her as the sea is to the moon. Further isolation stems from the ‘blackness and silence’ (28) of the yew tree, representing her father. Plath’s own father died when she was just eight, and this event would support the autobiographical reading of the poem. However even in death, or ‘silence’ (28) the yew tree is still closer to Plath than the moon, which is completely detached. The persona also feels alienated from nature and her surroundings, much as she tries to find meaning in them, but instead of comfort, she simply finds nature’s ‘griefs’ (3) added to her own. Plath describes nature treating her ‘as if I were God’ (3), and whilst for some this would be a boast of power or egotism, in this context it only reinforces the loneliness which permeates the poem. The narrator of the poem is the only figure that stands on the ground, seemingly alone in their world; even the saints in the church are ‘floating’ (25), just out of reach. The comparison to God also suggests a feeling of inadequacy from the poet, she feels like she cannot meet the expectations that the world places upon her.

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