Ans. The Rival seems to refer to Assia Wevill, the mistress of Ted Hughes. It is possible that it refers to Sylvia’s mother, or to the relationship between some friends of hers who were having marital difficulties more likely it is a combination of these things, like many other good poems of English Literature.
“The Rivals’ is composed in free verse and it consists of three stanzas, each having five lines of uneven length, followed by a couplet. The theme of the poem is presented by pure statements with the helps of metaphor, similes, irony etc. All through the poem, there is an atmosphere of gloom and unhappiness, and the tone of the speaker who is full of frustration.
The pleasure of reading The Rival derives from Plath’s efficient use of figure of speeches. The controlling metaphor of the poem is the extended metaphor comparing the writer’s imagined rival with the moon. This serves to emphasize the distance in the speaker and her rival’s relationship and the cold hardness with which Sylvia regarded her rival, supposedly her mother. The image of moon as ‘great light borrower’ implies that Sylvia’s mother takes the life from her just as the moon takes the light from the sun. The moon, too abuses her subjects. But in the day time she is ridiculous and also part of the conceit. It demonstrates that the speaker is jealous of her enemy and believes that she is up to no good. Ticking your fingers on the marble table, looking for cigarettes, relate the theme of lifelessness.
The tone of the poem is more conventional. It adheres less to formal meter and rhyme as it has to express the inner personal sentiment of a confession. The poem consists of four stanzas. The first three stanzas have equal number of lines, five lines each and the last stanza has only two lines giving a final blow to the tensed relation between the speaker and her rival.
Thus the short poem is stunning in its originality wit, and brutality.
Plath’s use of metaphor and simile is vivid and original.
The Rival is written in a simpler style, with a more economical use of words, more direct. The Rival deals with the very personal issues of suicide, sexual rivalry and, most dramatically, her complicated relationship with her mother like her relationship with her father.
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