Sylvia Plath's poem "Ariel" is a poem about personal destruction and renewal as the pesonality of the rider fuses with the horse she rides to become something more than either of them alone. The occasion of the poem is a horseback ride at dawn, and the real ride becomes a symbolic ride toward destruction and a new beginning. The ride can be seen as a spiritual journey on the horse Ariel. There is a unity achieved in the description of the way the horse, rider, and path meld together during the ride that makes the entire situation respond to the name "Ariel," not merely the horse. The horse, rider, and landscape are described as "substanceless," and this is one indication of the way they have melded together and combined into one experience:
From the first line, the image created is of a moment that begins in isolation and stillness--"Stasis in darkness." The use of the word "stasis" here shows that in the beginning, all is in perfect equilibrium. There is a stillness that will devolve into the action of the horse and rider. The woman becomes one with the horse and tastes of its power as she does so.
Here the dawn dissipates the darkness so that the rocky peaks can be seen in the distance. The shift is from black to blue, but all is still substanceless, meaning details cannot be differentiated.
The rider is "God's lioness," and she and the horse grow as one. The imagery of this poem shows the woman gaining and expressing her power as she and the horse are unified. There is something supernatural about the way the ride is described, and the use of the name "Ariel" reinforces this, a reference to Shakespeare's fun-loving sprite in The Tempest. Shakespeare's Ariel is androgynous, capable of being either sex, and Plath's female rider as well is capable of being both male and female and so of asserting her female power in a variety of ways. Indeed, she can also be inanimate objects, like an elm tree, even as she is a w...