First, are you our sort of a person?
Do you wear
A glass eye, false teeth or a crutch,
A brace or a hook,
Rubber breasts or a rubber crotch,
Stitches to show something’s missing? No, no? Then
How can we give you a thing?
Open your hand.
Empty? Empty. Here is a hand
To fill it and willing
To bring teacups and roll away headaches
And do whatever you tell it.
Will you marry it?
It is guaranteed
To thumb shut your eyes at the end
And dissolve of sorrow.
We make new stock from the salt.
I notice you are stark naked.
How about this suit –
Black and stiff, but not a bad fit.
Will you marry it?
It is waterproof, shatterproof, proof
Against fire and bombs through the roof.
Believe me, they’ll bury you in it.
Now your head, excuse me, is empty.
I have the ticket for that.
Come here, sweetie, out of the closet.
Well, what do you think of that?
Naked as paper to start
But in twenty-five years she’ll be silver,
In fifty, gold.
A living doll, everywhere you look.
It can sew, it can cook,
It can talk, talk, talk.
It works, there is nothing wrong with it.
You have a hole, it’s a poultice.
You have an eye, it’s an image.
My boy, it’s your last resort.
Will you marry it, marry it, marry it.
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) is a poet whose troubled life and powerful work remains a source of controversy. Born in Boston in the USA she was precociously intelligent, publishing her first poem at the age of eight.
“The Applicant” is reminiscent of a job interview, depicting the dilemma of young women who are taught by society to aspire to marriage and compete for the attention of men. Young girls advertise their physical beauty and in the process forget their own value. The metaphor of application merely hints to the fact that men desire certain characteristics in a woman which a girl must work to attain. The aim is always to get married and become an ideal wife. The woman is objectified to a robotic, insignificant; almost slave like existence where her intellect is not valued and her importance is judged by her physical appearance. Plath succeeds in creating an atmosphere that communicates oppression and the need to reinvent social stereotypes directed towards young girls.
Plath herself once said:
“What horrifies me most is the idea of being useless: well-educated, brilliantly promising, and fading out into an indifferent middle age.”
“The Applicant” is explicitly a portrait of marriage in contemporary Western culture.