Plath perceived that marriage in the 1950s brought along with its limitations as well as feelings of un-fulfilment. Plath’s 1956 poem ‘Spinster’ serves to juxtapose the expectations of society on women with a woman’s struggle to maintain her independence and control. The persona in ‘Spinster’ rejects the idea of marriage -a state in which women are dependent on men- furthering the interpretation that ‘this particular girl’ wants to have autonomous control over her own life.
The poem opens with the protagonist walking hand in hand with her ‘latest suitor’ in the month of April. The walk is said to be a ‘ceremonious walk’, suggesting a sense of routine and regularity. It is part of their lifestyle together as a couple. The use of the word ‘ceremonious’ also carries with it connotations of the prospect of marriage. In the 1950s marriage was a normalised however, divorce was not widely accepted. A married couple regardless of how unhappy they were tended to remain married. This could be mirrored in Plath’s own relationship with her husband Ted Hughes. Hughes initiated an affair with another woman, and the marriage collapsed; however, the couple did not divorce. ‘Ceremonious’ also suggests that marriage is a grand moment in one’s life despite the walk being part of the couples regular lifestyle. Plath strongly disagrees with the excitement of marriage as she believes marriage will strip a woman of her freedom. Plath uses the ceremonious walk as a form of sarcasm to criticise marriage. Plath challenges marriage and the consequences it may bring to women believing that marriage would cause disruption in one’s life as a woman would now have to take into account her partners wants and needs. This is because of the “male centred nature of civilisation”. It would be women who would have to be willing to sacrifice for men. The patriarchal world demonstrates how male wants and needs take precedent over females.
The centre of all civilisation is due to men and thus should benefit men. Because of this, Plath through her protagonist shows how marriage can seem overwhelming for an individual woman. The girls attention is caught by the disorder of the environment which further illustrates the overwhelming feeling she is currently experiencing. She sees the ‘birds’ irregular babel / and the leaves litter’; the word ‘litter’ erases the usual connotations and expectations of nature’s beauty, portraying it as a mess and not as it usually is. The alliteration of ‘leaves litter’ is used to further emphasise the disarray around the girl. The onomatopoeia ‘babel’ means confused noises and the speaking of nonsense. With the presence of the adjective ‘irregular’, it can be said that a birds song during springtime in April tends to be an enjoyable and beautiful sound, however, to this girl it is a disruptive annoying noise, a complete contrast. This could be mirroring how her ‘suitor’ is disruptive to her independence. It also symbolises the protagonists’ view of marriage is at odds with its convention and how unlike everyone else, marriage was not something she found appealing and willing to go through.
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