Cut Analysis

The Cut

–       Sylvia Plath


Written in 1962 – Plath was in deep depression- could be a reflection of how she felt at that time – displays the self destructive behavior that contributed to her suicide attempts


Poem is basically about a woman who has cut her thumb while preparing a meal, and the cut doesn’t seem to be accidental. The narrator is looking at the thumb and the blood with fascination –


The structure of this poem is such that every line is only a few words long. This makes the lines seem more important and also shows the tone of urgency throughout the poem


there are many historical references in this poem, which all talk about violent times in history


Escapism is mental diversion by means of entertainment or recreation, as an “escape” from the perceived unpleasant or banal aspects of daily life. It can also be used as a term to define the actions people take to help relieve persisting feelings of depression or general sadness.


The theme of ‘The Cut’ is escapism, but as it is with most of Plath’s poetry, it is a darker more sinister version of escapism. This is because the narrator experiences joy and excitement that come along with the cutting of her thumb.



The first line ‘What a thrill’ suggests that the cut is perhaps not accidental, however the final line ‘Dirty girl; thumb stump’ show that the narrator, is quite disgusted by what they’ve done or what they’ve seen – This disgust could perhaps be the guilt that Plath felt about her self destructive behavior even though she had two children depending on her


‘A celebration this is.’ This also suggests that the cutting of the thumb is seemingly a joyful occasion for the narrator.


By describing that there is a hinge of skin left behind she compares the cut to a door. This cut also perhaps is a sort of a release for her.


The third stanza compares the cut to a pilgrim and shows the image of a pilgrim having his head scalped by a Native American.

The lines

‘Out of a gap,

a million soldiers run,

Redcoats every one’


These lines symbolize blood gushing out from the wound – however I also believe that these lines symbolize a battle being fought. The battle, I believe is between the narrator and her depression.


The imagery of the military is also used throughout the poem to perhaps signify the control she felt when she cut herself and that her self destructive behavior is a command she is powerless against


At the end of the poem however, the thrill and joy of cutting her thumb is replaced by a feeling of helplessness when the narrator realizes that the pain has not helped her. Perhaps it has even left her worse off than she was before.


“Cut” was dedicated to Susan O’Neill Roe, Plath’s nurse/nanny and a close friend during the period of her single motherhood. Her dedication is interesting because her relationship with Roe was so distinct from the violence of the images. However, the connection makes sense when one realizes that the violent figures she mentions – a saboteur, a member of the KKK, a veteran – are all male


Finally, the poem can be understood as a political allusion to the Cuban Missile Crisis and other contemporary political dramas. Firstly, there are many references to American history – the pilgrim and the Indian, the KKK, and the redcoats – while a “Babushka” is a Russian item. All of the American images involve a period of war or conflict as well. Secondly, the poem was written on the day that Khrushchev refused President Kennedy’s demand that the Russian missiles be removed from Cuba. The unceasing flow of blood – and the ambivalent glee that the speaker explores – could be a response to a world progressively more consumed by potential destruction, and unsure how to process it.


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