Analysis of’Cinderella’ by Sylvia Plath


Cinderella was one of the early poems of Sylvia who made a mark on the literary scene within the short span of thirty years. Sylvia Plath was born on October 27th and started writing even as a young girl of eight. She is one of the stalwarts of confessional poetry. Her poetry improved as she grew older and analysts consider her final set of poems written between 1960 till her death as some of her best poems. She lived for only thirty years but penned many poems, novels and even short stories. She became popular for her poems and the popularity grew after her death in 1963. She was awarded he Pulitzer Prize in 1982, posthumously. Her work,‘The Colossus’ was published in 2004 again including many poems that were left out in the first edition. With this edition, Plath’s fame has only grown.

‘Cinderella’ was written while she was in Smith College and is considered a poem from her ‘Juvenilia period’. It is an adaptation of the fairy tale Cinderella where the beautiful girl dances with the handsome prince. Most of the lines are dedicated to the dance and the story and in the last line she dashes every dream and brings the reader into the reality of ‘time’.  The girl is described and the prince is dancing with her. Her eyes are green and slant, her shoes are scarlet, her hair is flaring up like a fan and the couple dance to the music. In the second stanza she describes the hall, its decorations and other guests. All the couples are gliding in a trance and they are revelling as if in a holiday long begun. The prince and the girl are lost in trance until the clock strikes twelve. When it does the ‘guilt-stricken’ girl halts, becomes pale and clings on to the prince. But she knows she cannot hold on to the prince for long. There is heady music and cocktail talk but she only hears the ‘caustic ticking of the clock.’

‘Cinderella’ is a sonnet with three quatrains and a couplet. The meter is regular and the rhyme scheme in the first two quatrains is ABAB. The end rhyme of the third quatrain is AAAA. In the last two lines the end words do not rhyme. Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in a line.In the line ‘Where guests slide gliding into light like wine’ she has brought in consonance with the words ‘slide, gliding, light and like- li’. Alliteration is the use of words beginning with the same letter in a line as in ‘guests slide gliding’. Plath uses visual and auditory images. The visual images are very colourful; there are ‘scarlet heels’, ‘green eyes’, ‘silver’ and ‘pale’. Along with visual imagery a pastoral imagery is created with ‘rose candles and lilac wall’. Auditory is created with ‘tilted violins’, hectic music’ and ‘cocktail talk’. The tone of the poem is fanciful. She almost recreates the ballroom scene of the fairy tale Cinderella but with one major change. The shoes given by the fairy is gold but here it is scarlet heels. The use of scarlet can be to make it contemporary. Though the scene is recreated, with the last two lines she changes the tone into a philosophical one from that of a whimsical fairy tale. The time is ticking away and it is ‘caustic’, which means it is burning into her life and she has to do something about it. A constant reminder that ‘time’ waits for no one.Steven Gould Axelrod, the English Professor who has reviewed Plath’s work goes a step further about the character; he says “the outsider protagonist liberates herself from feminine stereotype, gaining more in autonomy than she loses in social standing and sensual gratification.”

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