Cut Analysis – Kaveen

Written in the year 1962, Cut is one of the many confessional poems written by the American poet Sylvia Plath. In terms of content, the persona in “Cut” is Plath herself. Plath was amongst the first American women writer to refuse to suppress her true emotions. With the exoerience of much melancholy in her life, “Cut” is a poem that describes her despair and escapism.

Looking at the structure of the poem, the poem has 38 lines each being very short. The shortness of the lines shows its importance.

There is a certain significance of the title of the poem. It sets a context of the whole poem, as pieces of information is emerged from one cut.

The scenario over here is about a woman who has cut her thumb accidently while slicing an onion. It is more of a scene where she is preparing  a meal and develops into an association and blurring of physical and emotional senses, where she finds a great excitement in the accident. Her tone in this poem, when she begins, is excitable. She pronounces it to be a “thrill” that the top of her thumb is gone except for a “hinge skin” that is flapping like a “hat.” This gives a sense to the reader that she has obtained some degree of satisfaction in theat pain. Plath in a way refers to the accident as a sign of empathy and phychosis. She mainly describes the feelings of self mutilation and the emotional release the cut brings to her. In the starting of the poem we don’t know whether the cut was an accident or the incident was occurred on purpose.

Her usage of historical metaphors and violent events help to continue the exciting tone and maintain the reality of the enthrallment of the cut.

In the poem, Plath starts out with metaphor relating to her accident. The plot then picks up on choronologically placed imagery from American history to pilgrims to Ku Klux Khan.

Further on, Plath also uses a lot of imagery, which makes the poem alive. The use of imagery reflects certain sense of vivaciousness. Some of the words used in the form of imagery are “pink fizz”, “red plush”, “Redcoat”, Stain” and “pulp.”

“Of skin,

A flap like a hat,

Dead white,

Then that red plush”


Plath has the description of the cut of the thumb in layers; like the layers of that of an onion.

From lines 1-19 there is a continuous movement/flow of emotions and actions about the cut throughout. At first, she begins by experiencing an ambiguous “thrill”, and then gets enthralled by the thumb taking a role of the pilgrim, a pink soda, a celebration and then Redcoat. Moving on from there, lines 20-25 suggests that she now begins to feel ill and the pain which is why she takes the pill to get rid of “the thin, papery feeling.”

     Having a closer look at it, the first line “What a thrill” gives an obvious suggestion that the cut conveys her feelings of excitement. In the second line she gives a metaphor to the onion saying the onion has many layers to it just like her life. The other lines in the first stanza describes a metaphor on how the cut has left a hinge of skin which gives a message that the cut is a release for her.

       The second stanza shows the image of the cut. Here the poet refers to a pilgrim with its head scalped by an American Indian.  The line “I step on it” says that she tries to face the pain it has caused. The next two lines where she mentions “clutching my bottle.. of pink fizz” suggests that she has now puts on a painkiller and claims it that the cut is rather a celebration. The next lines where she mentions Out of a gap, a million soldiers run, redcoats every one, symbolizes that blood is rushing out from the wound and gives an introduction to the battle/war. The last stanza has an essence of military imagery and throughout the poem to represent the control she feels while cutting and the feeling that is like a command that she is powerless to refuse.

 In all the images used in the poem, Plath is seeing the thumb as something apart from her; the thumb has a sense of detachment from her. She observes the thumb rather than experiencing it. “Cut” showcases a separation felt between the body and the thumb.

This poem  develops a certain tone by the usage of motives, feelings, self-mutilation and escapism. She has challenged the typical idea that cutting yourself is painful and pointless by creating a non-miserable atmosphere. Hence, she explores how one cut on her body has distracted her from reality and the emptiness in her life which maybe the reason behind her being satisfied with the cut.


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