After reading the poem ‘two views in a cadaver room’ by Sylvia Plath, it gives the poem a dark and bright side of love which includes a dark grey area between the two. This poem has an observer who narrates both stanzas of the poem, both of which have different overview of emotions mostly depending on love. Sylvia Plath seems to have a sublime image over death as well as love, seeing that both of the stanzas have a connection drawn to an optical conclusion that death is over powering love.
The onlooker in the poem describes the first stanza as an arrangement of cadavers being slit open by medical students. And the second stanza describes an observation of Breughl’s painting ‘the triumph of death’ which shows two lovers completely unmindful as if they are in their little quixotic bubble which keeps them safe from all that’s happening around them which clearly is death. Could this mean that Sylvia Plath thinks that death is stronger than love? The possible identity of the person speaking to us is Sylvia Plath herself.
This poem is part of ‘The Colossus,’ where the poet is describing her personal experience of watching a scientific dissection to support her boyfriend Dick Norton, while studying at Smith College. The title: ‘two views of a cadaver room’ describe the two possible ways people could get dissected, it could be in a medical room or it could be at war. The first stanza portrays the corpses as ‘black as burnt turkey’ signifying the corpses could either be burnt or rotting, either way the bodies where ‘already half strung’ showing a visual image of a chaotic mess surrounding the ‘white- smoked boys’ indicating a juxtaposed composition of the alive boys being identified as ‘white’ and the corpses being recognized as ‘black.’ The connection between ‘vinegary fume’ and ‘death vats’ shows us both a visual as well as an olfactory image of death and preserved body-parts in jars.
A visual image to justify the copses deformation signifies ‘the head of his cadaver had caved in’ creating a harsh C sound from ‘cadaver’ and ‘caved.’ The chaotic mess including ‘half unstrung’ as well as ‘rubble’ shows a sticky and uncomfortable atmosphere of the ‘remains’ of the bodies making a negative image in the dissecting room, more negative imagery include ‘skull plates’ and ‘old leather,’ creating a sensory image. Plath uses words such as ‘sallow’ to identify a weak possible connection between the head and the body. In-between the first stanza she refers herself as ‘she’ using herself as the third person, showing maybe disrespect or possibly a schizophrenic part of her. After the first stanza there are two lines isolated as they indicate her fascination with death. Plath refers to ‘snail nosed babies’ comparing them to undeveloped fetuses, she evolves an image illustrating that they ‘moon and glow’ creating an unpleasant view of floating fetuses.
The line which refers to death being precious is shown as ‘He hands her the cut-out heart like a cracked heirloom’ this sentence could indicate a family possession handed down from generation to generation, this could reflect to Plath’s background including her dad’s absence when she was eight years of age. The second stanza describes a painting accomplished by Brueghel’s piece called ‘Triumph of death.’ This painting by Brueghel shows a ‘panorama of smoke and slaughter’ which shows an immediate reference to death. The second stanza refers to two lovers that ‘are blind to the carrion army’ which describes the pressure it creates to the reader visually identifying that love is blind, and that these two lovers are being caught up in an overpowering picture where death conquers all. A peaceful interlude is set in the middle of the stanza, portraying a man that is ‘afloat in the sea of her blue satin skirts’ which is a metaphor for where the male figure is sitting on.
This is an image of beauty setting a tranquil mood and calming the reader for a split second. Plath can see the female is completely oblivious to her surroundings and shows her ‘bare shoulder’ stating that love is in fact a sign of vulnerability and promiscuity. The two lovers creating their own world of harmony ‘as she bends, finger a leaflet of music, over him’ describing that the male figure is playing an instrument and probably calming the situation as the dominant character in their relationship. The picture seems to have a dark atmosphere ‘shadowing their song’ which shows that probably death will eventually overcome the couple. The last line in the second stanza puts the reader into a distressing outcome illustrating ‘these Flemish lovers flourish; not for long’ the soft alliteration of the F sound makes it seem that the lover will eventually fall in to a deep sleep and ‘not for long’ makes the stories overall conclusion be that there is no point in wasting time on love when you are going to die anyway.
As well as the first stanza the poem finishes with two last lines that are separate from the second stanza it states that the actions taking place are ‘stalled in paint’ meaning that the reader will never know what would have happened next if it were a real life situation. Plath uses the word ‘foolish’ which possibly means that to her, falling in love is pointless. The structure Plath uses is enjamblema, the reason why she probably used this form is to create a chaotic and unpleasant feeling for the reader making it feel as if they skipped a heartbeat, by the continuous storyline Plath is trying to set. Overall I think that this poem has a sad affect to whoever is reading it. It includes a lot of negative imagery such as ‘…death’s-head shadowing…’ making a tense read throughout the poem.