Salome

Salome – Titian

‘Salome’ Analysis

‘Salome’ is an angry poem. The constant repetition of the ‘ter’ sound at the end of most of the lines makes this energy relentless, creating uneasy half-rhymes that alert the poem’s audience to the speaker’s arguably deranged state of mind. These words that finish the lines often differ very slightly such as ‘better’ being followed by ‘butter’, and ‘blighter’ followed by ‘biter’. Not only is this possibly confusing for the reader, it increases the rhythm of the poem. The emotion is intense and unrelenting which this rhythm reflects and intensifies. These almost rhyming words give an impression of being disjointed, like how the speaker must people in relation to others and how the man’s head is now separated from his body. These sounds also build up to the unveiling of this brutal act. The effect of this is that the anger has a definite presence before the result of this anger is shown. This suspense is also created by the speaker mentioning subtle hints such as “colder than pewter” and “like a lamb to the slaughter”. The first is a fairly obvious hint but is overshadowed by the speaker’s forgetfulness concerning the man’s name. There is enjambment between the first, ‘Peter’ and the three others which shows that she really has no idea. Her single-worded statement, “Strange” may refer to the coldness, but also to the fact that he is a complete stranger to her. The man being a stranger further reflects the disjointedness of the speaker and the poem.

The sexual aspect of the poem is very significant. Having sex with a stranger presents a multitude of conflicting ideas. The only colour mentioned in the poem is red; “reddish beard”, “crimson mouth”, and “red sheets”. This colour is associated with anger, but also passion and love, which encapsulates the contradictory nature of these sexual liaisons. Having sex with a stranger is often more self-deprecating than enjoyable which the speaker’s bitterness betrays, despite her getting a slight kick from the act as shown by how her “eyes glitter”. This self-deprecating view is shown in the third stanza as she claims to “clean up my act, get fitter,” implying that what she is in the present is flawed with a particular emphasis on the body. Throughout the poem, colloquialisms are used and in this case it is perhaps to mimic what people typically say, betraying that her claims are perhaps too optimistic or insincere, again mimicking what people typically do when deciding on resolutions. This is added to by the first stanza when she says “and doubtless I’ll do it again, sooner or later”. This extra information that the speaker has almost attempted to hide in brackets adds to the insincerity later on.

The intertwining of violence and sex is shown in the poem by using words that have two different meanings. The speaker describe the men “who’d come like a lamb to the slaughter”. This can be interpreted as the literal sense, in the same way that the maid brings her breakfast. The two are also similar in that they both assume innocence due to the connotations of a lamb and how the maid’s ‘clutter’ is described as innocent. The disgust felt towards the man is perhaps on account of him being a male. This line, however, can also be more crudely interpreted as using ‘come’ to mean ejaculation. This then links sexual liberation with death and destruction. Similarly, the “sticky red sheets” can be interpreted in the same way, meaning both the mess sex causes and the blood from the dead body. These different interpretations then cause the murder of the man and his beheading to take on a metaphorical role. The last line says that the head was “on a platter” despite it previously being on a pillow. The use of this as a metaphor suggests that this is not a grand deed to be found in the Bible, but something that happens regularly in primarily women’s normal lives.

The final lines of this poem are triumphant. There is even a trace of humour in the comment, “ain’t life a bitch” because a bitch, meaning woman, is the one who is taking life away. The speaker can feel this triumph as she says that “her eyes glitter”. This verb has connotations of girlish excitement. The reader, and I speak from a female perspective, is glad of this to a certain extent. The self-degradation that she feels has been reversed. Rather than men seeing women as pieces of meat, it is the presumably female speaker that has made the man into a piece of meat to be served on a platter. There is also some pride in her words throughout the poem. The speaker says, “whose?” as if she is anticipating the eager question of her audience, placing herself on a stage being the centre of attention. This is a very forceful poem which needs a forceful speaker.

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