Biography Part I
Sylvia Plath was born on October 27, 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts. She lived with her parents Otto Emil Plath and Aurelia Schober Plath and later her brother Warren in the suburbs of Boston (Steinberg). Plath published her first poem at eight years old and was very intelligent. Some would even call her a model daughter because of her straight A’s, popularity in school, and her thrive to be perfect at everything (Gilson).
Perfection deceived Plath because it was used to hide her true feelings of depression. These were due to the death of her father in 1940, one week after her eighth birthday (Gilson). Plath pushed forward through the pain and got a scholarship to Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She was very ecstatic to be a ‘Smith Girl’ and tried her best to excel in all of her classes. Plath then moved to New York for a Guest Editorship prize she won in a Mademoiselle contest. While there, Plath began to breakdown and soon had to come home exhausted, emotionally, mentally, and physically. She also came home because she was relying on getting into a Harvard summer class on writing, which she did not receive. Hearing this news broke her even more and she declares not being able to sleep, read, or write, because of it in her novel The Bell Jar (Steinberg).
Due to her unhappiness and loss of sleeping, reading, and writing, Plath began to feel suicidal. She nearly killed herself by overdosing on sleeping pills but eventually recovered by having electroshock treatments and psychotherapy (Gilson). Plath excelled more than ever now that the sad days were behind her and she also met her husband, Ted Hughes who was a well known poet as well. Together, they each wrote the best poems of their lifetime and eventually had two children (Steinberg).
Plath’s and Hughes’ marriage did not last long because Hughes was caught having an affair with another woman. During this time, Plath wrote many harsh poems about men and expressed her opinions about them by using very feminist diction. The divorce broke Plath’s heart and she became very hopeless again after this event (Steinberg). She was a single woman with two ill children and low money which increased her feelings of sorrow greatly. (Gilson) In 1963, Plath killed herself by placing her head in a gas oven; leaving her two children in the care of a house keeper (Steinberg). Although Plath was crazy and had strong opinions about men, she produced many poems about woman’s liberation in the pre-modern period that impacted many people’s lives greatly. Plath’s grave is located in Yorkshire, and is visited by hundreds of her followers each year (Steinberg).
Summary of Criticisms Part II
In Adams’ criticism, “Life & Letters: ‘The Bell Jar’”, she writes about The Bell Jar, stating that Plath’s novel is “not really good” as a first novel from an author should be. She explains herself by further saying that it very much an autobiography and in a way, dishonest because it represents a girl becoming crazy. The reader may not thoroughly understand why Adams’ said this because Sylvia was mentally ill, so in a way she was being completely honest. Adams’ must have been trying to establish that if Sylvia would have just written this book as an autobiography instead of a memoir, then she would be writing completely about herself. Nothing would be confused because Plath would be writing about her own life and feelings. According to Adams’, Plath never gave insight on her own reality in the book. She instead would create flashbacks for the main character, Esther, to have in order to fill the pages of the book. Nothing was in present time which Adams’ feels is a mistake, but others may think that every flashback Plath wrote, gave a clue to what was going to happen in the future. (Adams) Corrigan’s criticism, “Sylvia Plath: a New Feminist Approach”, starts by saying how the way Plath writes about boyfriends in The Bell Jar is a sort of complement to how she...
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