Marriage by society to strive to marry


Marriage and domesticity is a common motif in many of Sylvia
Plath’s poems an example being ‘The Applicant’. Plath focuses on the pressures
that society pins on us to look and act a certain way which is deemed
appropriate. The poem, The Applicant, allows Plath to present what she assumes society
believes is best suited for marriage.

At first glance the title ‘The Applicant’ suggests to the
reader a person applying for a certain role thus, it enables the reader to
visualise a job interview scenario whereby the applicant is trying to express
her best qualities. However, this is not the case as further reading shows that
the applicant is not given the opportunity to do so rightfully.

The Applicant demonstrates the problems of young women who are
indoctrinated by society to strive to marry – as the ultimate goal in life and
being the ideal wife. From a young age, girls are pampered to appear a certain
way which is advertised by society via media. They are influenced by the
pressures society pins on them which leads to them forgetting their own values
and morals.

Plath hints to the reader how women are objectified to a robotic, merely
slave-like creations whereby their intelligence is not the pinnacle of
characteristics she should possess. But rather, her significance of being this
idealistic woman is determined by her physical appearance and what she is able
to do in terms of being a housemother. Ergo, Plath succeeds in creating an aura
that conveys women as being oppressed by society; the need to reform social
stereotypes particularly towards women is needed and women should be
appreciated more than what society pinpoints as key characteristics. Plath once
said: “What horrifies me most is the idea of being useless: well-educated,
brilliantly promising, and fading out into an indifferent middle age.” She is
able to assert these views in The Applicant therefore Sylvia Plath succeed in
casting a negative light on stereotypes of the ideal women.

“The Applicant” is explicitly a portrait of marriage in contemporary
Western culture.

The Applicant on initial thoughts
is somewhat perplexing since we may find it difficult to distinguish whether a
man or a woman is applying for the ‘role’. Line 5 the most thought-provoking
line in the first stanza due to the fact it suggest the applicant is a woman at
first when it states “breast”, however it then says “crotch” suggesting a man.
This could be because Sylvia Plath although being a strong-willed feminist she
also recognises that men also suffer from domestic abuse too. Women have to meet
a certain physical standards in order to qualify for this job – if not met they
fail the recruitment process. This shows how harsh society can be with its
demands of a woman appealing to men in specific way, thus, Sylvia Plath
succeeds in her goal of casting a negative light on society.

The tone of the second stanza is also demanding like the first
one. This is evident when the interviewer commands the applicant to “stop
crying” instead of trying to soothe and comfort the applicant demonstrating
that society is heartless and selfish. The fixation on people putting on a
brave act instead of seeking for help when needed, stems from the ideals of
society. Sylvia Plath having suffered from depression before she committed
suicide wrote poems such as The Applicant to show that society in general needs
to overlook the idea of putting on a mask to hide their emotions. However, she
doesn’t put the blame on people with depression but pins it on society
indirectly. As society commands people with depression to overcome it shown in
the use of “stop crying” rather than trying to improve the person’s mental state.

The satire nature of the poem also adds to puzzling and
thought-provoking purpose behind the poem. Ergo, challenges the reader to study
it more closely in order to gather an understanding of the poem. This may be
purposefully done in order to grasp and challenge the readers mind into giving
it absolute attention – since marriage and domesticity is an on-going problem
in society today and at the time. The motifs of marriage and domesticity holds
high importance for the poet, Sylvia Path. Claims of unseen letters written by
Plath herself suggests that she was abused 2 days before her miscarriage. She
was also abused by her parents which created the bases of negative schemas throughout
her life which eventually marshalled her to committing suicide. Events such as
these are evident to why she infuses many of poems with this theme of marriage
and domesticity. There is a definitive link between the ideas behind Sylvia
Plath’s poems and her personal life.

Throughout her life, critics have suggested that she is a
Poetic Feminist, a ‘driving force’ for rights of women after the war through
the use of her poems. In many of her poems she is extremely critical of
domesticity in marriage. Her critique of domesticity demonstrates her negative
outlook on the idea showing that is completely against it. She failed to see
the next wave of feminism and how women have come thus far since her death.
During her time as a poet she would have been surrounded with ideas of male
dominance in her everyday life. Women after helping in the war were ‘forced’ to
get back to their fitting jobs that the media glamourised. Jobs such as
housekeeping and taking care of their family were socially constructed for

It later becomes clear that the Applicant is a man seeking
for a wife. The applicant has everything he needs but lacks a hand to hold. The
interviewer represents society as a whole due to the demands that they ask for.
This demanding society that Plath was present prompts you to appear a certain
way before you can be accepted and fit in with the norms of society. Synecdoche
is used when the interviewer says, “here is a hand” in stanza 2 – the
interviewer is referring to a woman. The use of synecdoche is to demonstrate
the concepts of the household woman. The women described in the interview is



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