Sylvia Plath: Research Paper

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  • Topic: Sylvia Plath, Suicide, Poetry
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  • Published : May 1, 2011
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I Have No Wit, I Have No Words, No Tears
Sylvia Plath’s life story could be considered tragic as she was monopolized by a severe depression yet expressed her sorrows through enlightening words in her many poems. The death of her father when she was only eight years old commenced her lifelong despondency and insecurities. In the poem “Daddy”, she speaks of how she never fully understood him and blames him for the emptiness she feels without a father. As time moved on, Plath discovered her writing talent while excelling in school (Harmon). Although a story of hers was welcomed by Seventeen Magazine her senior year of high school and she received two scholarships to attend Smith College in Massachusetts and was accepted to notable internships, Plath was never completely satisfied with herself. She felt as though there was always something she needed to prove to the world. Suffering a severe breakdown after her junior year at Smith in 1953, Plath attempted suicide for the first time as disappointments outweighed her many achievements (McCann). Recovering from electroconvulsive shock therapy, Plath graduated from Smith College and proceeded to study at Cambridge University in England.

There she published her first collection of work called The Colossus and Other Poems. Soon after, she began her first ambiguously autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. Unfortunately, it was not as successful as she and many others had hoped at the time. But Plath came back by writing a radio play, Three Women: A Monologue for Three Voices and her so-called October poems. These literary pieces unleashed the vexation she felt from expectations others had for her (Harmon)(Gilbert).

At Cambridge University, Plath met and secretly married Ted Hughes, an English poet. They both worked as college professors for a time to pay the bills but focused much energy on writing poetry books. After moving around England and the United States, Plath gave birth to a daughter, Frieda, and later to a son, Nicholas. Stressed from work, parenthood, and her marriage, Hughes and Plath separated in 1962 after a short union of only six years. She moved away to London with her two children to live and work in the former house of W.B. Yeats, a famous Irish poet. Feeling betrayed yet again by a man, Sylvia Plath took her life by gas inhalation on February 11, 1962 at the age of thirty (McCann). Although she had a very unhappy life, she achieved much by composing over 120 fascinating poems.

Plath’s writing has been praised by many because of its “surprising metaphors and often grotesque humor” and its “frank anger over social expectations of women” (Harmon). Imitators of her sensational work have come about addressing similar experiences with nervous breakdowns, sexual embarrassments, and suicide attempts. The Bell Jar, specifically, is remembered for the protagonist, Esther Greenwood, an unstable and hypersensitive woman that encounters an antagonistic world she disagrees with. Esther’s acute personality and psychological discomfort matches that of Plath (McCann). Much of her poetry was published posthumously including her Collected Poems which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1982. In all, Plath’s widespread feminist poems divulged her hatred of shallow men that led to her separation from society and to her downfall. Her adventurous use of bold metaphors and stunning imagery have given her the title of one of the most important American poets (Gilbert).

Much of Sylvia Plath’s lifelong self hatred and depression was the result of her damaging relationship with her father. Reoccurring subjects that appear in many of her works are German Nazis and the Holocaust. “She still suffers both the stifling authority of her father and the pain of his early death” (Dunn). Plath compares her connection to her father as if she were a Jewish victim in the Holocaust. “Aryan eye bright blue / so black no sky / my pretty red heart in two / a man in black /...
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