Cut was written in 1962, during this time Plath was in deep depression. This poem could very well be a reflection of how she felt at that time. The self-destructive behavior that is portrayed here contributed to her suicide attempts.
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 maintain the tone of urgency throughout the poem.
“What a thrill, my thumb instead of an onion” -These make the cut seem very accidental. The diction thrill tells us that speaker seems to be fascinated by the cut. Sarcastic tone here shows an unexpected calmness.
“The top quite is gone, except for a sort of a hinge” – Since the imagery here compares her cut to a hinge of the door, this means that cut is a form of escape. A doorway to parallel universe, perhaps. The hints us the theme of escapism in the poem. This however does not make the cut seem accidental.
“Dead white then that red plush” The description of cut seems clam compared to the other references, almost like a photo. This helps the reader to imagine the scene.
“Little pilgrim, the Indian’s axed your scalp ” – This is an historical allusion. Reference to war. This imagery portrays spirituality(x-gruesome image) lost in contemporary society(war). Or scalping could refer to her thumb, since scalping was a very bloody process.
“Clutching my bottle Of pink fizz. A celebration, this is.” Refers to her thumb as a bottle, which indicates the amount of blood being let out. The word celebration gives us another hint of sarcasm.
“Out of a gap A million soldiers run, Redcoats, every one.” Another historical allusion. Soldiersrefer to American civil war against the British, the redcoats. Her blood cells are metaphorically compared to the redcoats, rushing out of the gap in her skin.
“Homunculus, I am ill” means tiny human. So relating it with little pilgrim. Because white and little, thumb, detached .. so now as tiny. “I am ill” hints her mental instability.
“I have taken a pill to kill The thin Papery feeling.” Plath, deliberately ends the stanza at “kill”. This could show possible suicidal thoughts. However, taking enjambment into consideration, we see that Plath has taken a painkiller to heal herself.
“Saboteur, Kamikaze man” She has sabotaged her own safety, and has damaged herself. She feels guilty of mutilating herself, even though it might be an accident.
“The stain on your Gauze Ku Klux Klan Babushka” tells us that the stain of blood on the gauze is similar to a terrorist organisation’s stain. Babushka is a headscarf, this could create an image of how the wound had been dressed.
“Pulp of your heart, confronts its small, mill of silence”. now a heart would never stop beating until it stops. so this could hazard (small mill of silence) could refer to the heart that stopped beating – to death.
Final line “Dirty girl, thumb stump” shows that the narrator is quite disgusted by what she has done. 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 the pain, to be in control has not helped her. She was worse than before.
The tone changes hugely throughout this poem. At the beginning of the poem when Plath cut her thumb she is thrilled, this shown by the type of words she uses. For example Plath wrote, “What a thrill—-my thumb instead of an onion.” and, “Clutching my bottle of pink fizz. A celebration, this is.” But as the poem progresses Plath seems to realise what she’s done to herself and the tone changes into self hate. This is shown clearly by the lines, “Saboteur, kamikaze man—-” and also, “How you jump—-trepanned veteran, dirty girl, thumb stump.”
These historical allusions and imageries are all violent and have to do with war. The battle, I believe is between the narrator and her depression. The poem could be a metaphor for pain caused by mutilating oneself.
Surprisingly this gruesome poem was dedicated to Susan O’Neil Roe as a welcome gesture. Since Susan and Plath bonded pretty well, this could be Plath expressing her sorrow to Susan.