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Literature11 - The Poetry of Sylvia Plath: Poem: Ariel

Ariel by Sylvia Plath

‘Ariel,’ the title poem for Plath’s collection of the same name, is one of her most popular. It describes an intense and terrifying experience in which the speaker is stuck on a horse, sprinting towards the sun. There is a lot more to it than the simple fear and lack of control the situation suggests. The rider goes through an emotional and mental transformation as she is carried towards the sun, and more metaphorically, towards death.

About the Poem

‘Ariel’ by Sylvia Plath describes the terror of a horseback ride and the mental and emotional transformation the rider goes through.

As Plath rides Ariel through the dawn light, it is as if she is shedding her past self and become reborn as something else: the experience of riding the horse is almost transcendent. ‘I unpeel’, she tells us, likening herself to Lady Godiva, the eleventh-century Saxon noblewoman who defied her husband’s harsh taxation of the people of Coventry and rode naked through the streets of the town, according to legend.

Written in October 1962 (on her thirtieth birthday), just four months before Plath committed suicide, ‘Ariel’ became the title poem in Plath’s posthumous 1965 volume, publication of which was overseen (controversially) by Plath’s widower, Ted Hughes.

Period: 20th Century

Nationality: American

Themes: JourneyIdentityRecovery

Emotions: AngerFreedomResilience

Topics: Life StrugglesMindSexism

Form: Free Verse

Genre: Confessional


Sylvia Plath reads "Ariel"

SOURCE: Poet's Speak (Jul 17, 2023), YouTube,

Why Did Sylvia Plath Write 'Ariel'?

Learn about why Sylvia Plath chose to write her poetic anthology, 'Ariel'.

SOURCE: Jeddle (Apr 1, 2020), YouTube,


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