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Compare and Contrast: Two Literary Works

Compare and Contrast Two Literary Works: Poem and Short Story

Literary works can be similar in terms of themes, styles and form. In the case of poems and short stories, use of metaphors and imagery make two literary works similar or different. Comparing poems and short stories make literature a very interesting topic. Daddy by Sylvia Plath and As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner are two literary works with the main theme of death in which imagery, metaphors among other stylistic devices have been employed to show how different people view death.

Even though Daddy is a poem while As I Lay Dying is a short story, both of them are explaining different ways of dealing with death as evidenced in the characters. The poem is in form of narration done by the author describing the kind of relationship she had with her father before his death. After her father’s death, she almost killed herself, but as she says, “they pulled me out of the sack, and they stuck me together with glue” (Plath, 1961, ln 13-14), she was saved. In order to keep the memories of her father, she moved in with “A man in black with a Meinkampf look” (ln 17) to have a father figure in the house. However, her husband betrays her and as a result, she is forced to hate all men and in fact kill them.

Similarly, the short story is discussing death as Addie Bundren is very ill and instead of her children fearing for her death, Cash, her oldest son, has dedicated all his carpentry skills in making a coffin. Even though the woman has been extremely ill and her death is expected, Vardaman, one of her sons, does not accept her mother’s death and as a result, he makes holes at the top of the coffin. This is evidence that death is not acceptable although inevitable (Waisala, 1996).

Imagery is used in both literary works although with different meanings. The narrator in the poem uses the image of her husband to keep her father’s memories, as she does not accept the fact that her father is dead. She thinks that having her husband in the house will help her live a happy life since her suicide attempts have backfired. Correspondingly, Vardaman, the youngest son, uses imagery of a fish in the short story as he links his mother’s death with a fish he caught earlier in the day and cleaned. Cleaning of the fish is linked to death. As Vardaman takes the fish, it loses its life and so does her mother (Fargnoli et al, 2008).

As Anse’s family honor Addie’s deathbed wishes, the issue of unchristian practices of Addie is recalled. She did not only cheat on her husband with a number of men giving birth to several sons, she also worships her son, Jewel, the fruit of her love affair with, Whitfield, the local minister more than she adores God (Waisala, 1996). In the poem, Daddy, religion rejection is also evidenced as the narrator out of love refers to her father as God and later after his death, calls him by the name, Devil. All these are shown as evidence of failing to accept death. Referring the father as God and later as the Devil shows disrespect to God and does not approve of His decision to take the life of her father.

Just as the narrator in the poem keeps the memories of her father in her husband, Jewel, Addie’s favorite son, keeps the memories of her mother in his horse. Even though Jewel is thought to be uncaring and ungrateful, his actions during the burial preparation prove otherwise. He enables to manage the coffin of her mother to the wagon singlehandedly. In addition, he saves the coffin, as it is drown in the river when they are transporting the body to the burial place. This shows that Jewel values his mother and therefore keeping the horse will help him keep the sweetest memories of his mother. It can be argued that Jewel values his horse and has to keep it to save the memories of his dear mother. This is a proof that Jewel does not accept the fact that his mother is dead.

Both characters in the two literary works are mourning the deaths of their loved ones, the father for the narrator in the poem and the mother in the short story. However, the characters are doing all they can in order to forget those dead loved ones. The narrator in the poem thinks that she can keep the memories of her father by living with a man but after she realizes that the man has betrayed her, she manages to” kill them both” (Plath, 1962, ln 23) . By this, it means that the narrator has managed to live with the fact that her father is dead although in bitterness.

Likewise, the characters in the short story are determined to forget their mother. It gets a long time to forget their mother just as the narrator in the poem does. Nonetheless, the fact that Anse marries another wife and gives her the title, Mrs. Bundren is evidence that he has grown over his wife. Additionally, Darl, one of the family’s son, argues, “I haven’t got ere one ----Because if I had one, it is was. And if it was, it cant be is. Can it?” (Faulkner, 2000, p. 95) This is because their mother is already gone and they have to accept that fact.

Although in different forms, it is evidenced in both literary works that men are seen as devils. This is shown by the way the women characters have referred to them and by the manner, the men have treated the women as well. In the poem, Daddy, the Meinkampf man mistreats the narrator as she says, “The vampire who said he was you, And drank my blood for a year” (Plath, 1962, ln 24-25). Even though she adores her father initially, she is forced to refer both men as bastard, vampire, as well as a devil. This makes her link them with death as she finally remarks to have killed them both.

Similarly, Addie has seen the cruelty of men. She has had love affairs with several men. She sees all men as “potential sexual predators” (Faulkner, 2000, p. 53). According to Addie, men lead women into a “tub full of guts” (p. 58). A cruel shopkeeper, who is not interested in her but is only out to take advantage of her, impregnates Dewey Dell, Addie’s daughter. The fact that the shopkeeper takes advantage of Dewey Dell’s innocence is a proof that men are unscrupulous.

In order to prove the theme of love to the people stolen by death, the two literary works use narration as the literary style. The poem is believed to be narrated by the author, Sylvia Plath, while a number of people narrate the short story. In the first part of the story, Darl, Addie’s son, does the narration. Narration in the two literary works makes the theme clear as the feelings of the characters are shown. In addition, narration explains events as they occur, this makes the audience, and listeners understand the literary works better (Waisala, 1996).

Even though the two pieces of literature are similar in a number of ways, it should be noted that they contrast as well. The fact that the two pieces of literature are a poem and a short story makes them distinct. The short story is divided into 59 sections while the poem is divided into 16 stanzas. This makes the short story longer, elaborative and clear to read and understand. On the contrary, the poem is short and thus requires extensive analysis before one could understand its meaning.  

Both pieces have a number of characters. For instance, in the poem, it s evidenced that there are the narrator, the vampire man, the dead father, the people who rescued the narrator as she tried to commit suicide and the people who are stepping on the dead father’s burial place (Bogarad & Schmidt, 2002).

Nevertheless, only the feelings of the narrator in the poem are shown to be affected by the death of the father.   The people who rescued the narrator as she tries to commit suicide are just but sympathetic with her but not with the dead man. In addition, the people who described to be stepping on the burial place are not caring because they forgot about the death of the man and cannot even remember that somebody was buried there (Fargnoli et al, 2008).

In the short story, several people are affected by the death of Addie. The characters affected include Anse, Addie’s husband, and their sons. Further, there are caring neighbors who are willing to take the family to the burial place. On the way to the burial place, the families are hosted by poor families who comfort them. This is a surety that they are not alone in their loss. Death is taken with seriousness in the short story than it is in the poem.

The fact that Anse’s Family has a number of other people, who are comforting them in this difficult time, shows that they would easily bear with the situation and forget their dead mother. Additionally, the boys comfort each other in their own ways and this makes the family live up with the loss fast. However, in the poem, the narrator has no one to console her and in fact, the person she thinks will help her in her loss, her husband, takes advantage of her and betrays her (Bogarad & Schmidt, 2002). She is thus left alone to count her loss implying that she has to take quite a long time before she can bury the memories of her mother. This is evidenced as the narrators says, “I was ten when they buried you. At twenty I tried to die And get back, back, back to you” (Plath, 1962, ln 9-11). The narrator lived so many years with fresh memories of her father.

While Addie’s family might have forgotten the death of their mother through consoling and comforting each other, the narrator in the poem learns through the hard way to hate men. This forces the narrator to “kill” her father after she learns that, the vampire man has been sucking her blood for around seven years. The narrator learns through the hard way to accept the death of her father after she realizes that there is nothing else she can do and thus says, “Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through” (Plath, 1962, ln 32). This is after she has learnt to live without a man by her side even though, in the worst manner ever.

The poem uses one-handed narration in which only the feelings of the narrator are described as the other characters are not given time to describe how they feel. For instance, may be the vampire man has a reason for his cruelty actions. In addition, the people who step on the father’s burial place might have a reason for it. However, only the narrator has the chance to describe her view of the story (Melander, 2002). This does not show how different characters in the poem deal with death.

On the contrary, the short story has narration done by a number of characters, each giving his or her side of the story. The first section of the story is narrated by Darl. Through him, we learn that death is inevitable and despite all what man does, loved ones will be lost. It is not that Darl does not love his mother but rather shows how prepared he is for the death. Later in the sections, Addie is shown justifying her infidelity actions as she argues that she never loved Anse and has lived with a number of men after she realized that all are cruel. She used to kill a man after another after she realized that they treated her with cruelty.

Even though both pieces of literature emphasize on inevitability of death, there are significant similarities and differences. Characters in both pieces, take death differently. The main theme is explained differently by use of narration. While the characters in the short story comfort each other and thus learn to live with death, the narrator in the poem only accepts death after she realizes that she has nothing else to do.

Both authors have categorically used imagery, styles, form, and content to pass the main theme across.


Academy of American Poets. (2011). Daddy by Sylvia Plath. Retrieved from http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15291.

Bogarad, C. R. & Schmidt, Z. (2002). Legacies: Fiction, Poetry, Drama, Nonfiction. New York: Harcourt College Publishers.

Faulkner, W. (2000). As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text. Michigan: Modern Library publishers.

Fargnoli, A. N., Golay, M. & Hamblin, R. W. (2008). Critical Companion to William Faulkner: A Literary Reference to his Life and Work. London: Infobase Publishing.

Melander, I. (2002). The Poetry of Sylvia Plath: A Study of Themes. Michigan: Almquist & Wiksell publishers.

Waisala, W. E. (1996). William Faulkner's As I lay Dying. New York: Research & Education Assoc.


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