Panorama of Death


Sylvia Plath uses certain techniques to make the theme of her poem clear and easy to see for the reader. The techniques are allusion, usage of diction and usage of metaphors.


Sylvia Plath alludes to the picture Panorama of Death by Brueghels. The scene of death and destruction attracts her because her life was plagued by depression and despair. Some examples of the allusion are desolation stalled in paint and two people only are blind to the carrion army. Desolation stalled in paint, refers to the upper half of the picture, an empty wasteland where isolated people meet their death on gibbets, by being thrown of a cliff, being beheaded and on broken wheels to die of exposure. The carrion army refers to the soldiers of death gathered around the gates of hell. They are carrying coffin lids as shields. The painter suggests the soldiers of death are countless because all the viewer can see is the tops of the soldiers’ helmets.


Sylvia Plath also uses diction to convey her ideas .She is very careful with the words she uses; the connotations of the words have to match what she wants the reader to see. She uses words with strong connotations. Some of them are slaughter, carrion, desolation and shadowing to suggest that death is everywhere in Breughel’s picture.


Slaughter suggests an indiscriminate blood bath where people are killed regardless of rank age or gender. The army is described as being a carrion army because it feeds on death and on dead and rotting bodies. Desolation describes the landscape, which the armies of death are laying waste to. Only fires and people suffering death dot the landscape. Shadowing suggests death, out hunting and pursuing its victims and the unwary.


There is a second pattern of words contrasting word created by Sylvia Plath, delicate, afloat, flourish, lovers, music and sea, to create in the minds of the reader the idea that love, life and light still exists in the midst of the darkness, death and desolation.


Another technique used by Sylvia Plath is using metaphors such as, he afloat in the sea of her blue satin skirts. The poet is comparing the colour of the woman’s skirt to the sea .She compares the folds of the woman’s numerous skirts to the wave of the sea .The woman and her skirts folds around her lover protectively so that it is as if he is afloat in the sea. The lovers are isolated from the death, pain and suffering around them. Desolation stalled in paint spares, the little country, and the lower right hand corner of the painting that lovers are in. The armies of death besiege the corner. Stalled in paint, suggests that death never stops hunting people .You may delay death, but ultimately death will start up again. Breughel freezes the process in the painting so that the viewer can see and understand more clearly .The word stalled always implies its opposite. Death will ultimately conquer the little country.


Sylvia Plath uses the techniques of allusion, diction and metaphors to convey her theme to the reader, so the reader can see the themes and ideas clearly and easily.