Sylvia Plath – The Hanging Man

Using various techniques of sound creation in “The Hanging Man,” Sylvia Plath easily can set the reader on edge. Alliteration occurs in the first line with the words “god” and “got,” both words sounding jabbing and cruel from the hard G’s and final T of “got.” These contrast with the fluid-sounding words “my” and “me,” also in the same line. Line two is most prominently saturated in consonance. Sizzled, blue, volts, and like, all pull the line together. Although the L sound is calming in most cases, here it serves to aid in the disgusting imagery. The first stanza contains much assonance also: By and my, and god and got, in line 1. Sizzled, in, his, and desert, prophet, in line 2.

The second stanza makes use of alliteration with the words snapped and sight, in line 1, and shadeless, socket, in line 2. Also in line two are the more soothing words: world, white. Consonance is used again here with the letter D in snapped, lizard’s, eyelid, world, bald, days, shadeless. L is in like, lizard’s, eyelid, world, bald, shadeless. And assonance is used with nights, sight, like, eyelid, white. Most striking here are the number of hard consonants used: snapped, out, sight, like, eyelid, world, bald, white, days, and socket, are words that continually punch back and forth, keeping the reader’s eyes open.

In the third stanza, what jumps out first is the assonance: pinned, in, this, if, did. The alliteration found in the last line is interesting because it lowers the reader down slowly away from the hard consonants used previously so often. Were, would, and what are the words used in this line. Consonance also makes an appearance, but not as greatly as in the other stanzas. Boredom, pinned, would, do, and did are words used in this way. The letter D is hard, but not as harsh sounding as other letters she uses frequently earlier in the poem.

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