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‘Cut’ is a poem written by Sylvia Plath. It is a disconcerting poem that deals with the persona, who is likely to be a woman, filled with a morbid fascination for self-harm.
About the Poet:
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) was a prominent American poet. She is known for her confessional mode of writing in her poetry. Famous works of hers include ‘Mad Girl’s Love Song’, ‘Tulips’, and ‘Daddy’.
What a thrill - My thumb instead of an onion. The top quite gone Except for a sort of hinge
The poem begins on a disturbing note with the persona excited over the fact that it was their thumb that had gotten cut instead of the onion they were cutting. They remark that the top of their thumb was gone with the exception of ‘a sort of hinge’ or hat on it. The imagery is gruesome here.
Of skin, A flap like a hat, Dead white. Then that red plush.
The image of the hat from the previous stanza is continued here. The cut skin is like a hat, pale in colour before it becomes crimson with the blood oozing out.
Little pilgrim, The Indian's axed your scalp. Your turkey wattle Carpet rolls
The persona refers to their thumb as a ‘Little pilgrim’ whose scalp was ‘axed’ by an ‘Indian’. Next, they compare it to a ‘turkey wattle’ due to the redness of the flesh. The persona then rolls out a carpet.
Straight from the heart. I step on it, Clutching my bottle Of pink fizz. A celebration, this is. Out of a gap A million soldiers run, Redcoats, every one.
They step on this carpet, clutching their bottle of ‘pink fizz’. This could either refer to the persona’s bleeding thumb or an actual bottle of champagne, considering that they refer to this incident as a ‘celebration’. The blood flowing from the would is compared then by the persona to the ‘Redcoats’ of a million soldiers from the British Army.
Whose side are they on? O my Homunculus, I am ill. I have taken a pill to kill
Having called the blood an army makes the persona now wonder whose side they were fighting for. Then, the thoughts of the persona shift as they bemoan the fact that they are ill and had taken a pill to ‘kill’ the pain.
The thin Papery feeling. Saboteur, Kamikaze man -
‘The thin/Papery feeling’ connotes the bandage the persona had worn to stem the flow of blood. They compare this to white hoods that were typically worn by Ku Klux Klan mentioned in the next stanza.
The stain on your Gauze Ku Klux Klan Babushka Darkens and tarnishes and when The balled Pulp of your heart Confronts its small Mill of silence
This stanza shows how the bandage stains and darkens in colour when encountered with the red blood. The persona then goes on to state how their heart feels as though beaten to a pulp and confronts a small ‘Mill of silence’.
How you jump - Trepanned veteran, Dirty girl, Thumb stump.
The persona addresses a ‘you’ who is startled into a jump here. This ‘you’ could either mean their heart, going by the previous stanza, or their thumb. The poem concludes with the persona referring to this ‘you’ as a ‘Trepanned veteran’ soldier, a ‘dirty girl’, and a ‘thumb stump’ or a tree cut down, all of whom were headless.
This is a dark poem that lets the readers peek into the tumultuous mind of the poet. Her grotesque obsession with the cut thumb reveals a passion for self-destruction, leaving the reader highly unsettled by that notion.