Sylvia Plath: the Woman Behind the Word

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Sylvia Plath was a gifted writer, poet and verbal artist whose personal anguish and torment visibly manifested itself in her work. Much of her angst stems from her warped relationship with her father. Other factors that influenced her works were her strained views of human sexuality, her sado-masochistic tendencies, self-hatred and her traditional upbringing. She was labeled as a confessional poet and biographical and historical material is absolutely necessary to understand her work. Syliva Plath was born on 27, 1963, in Boston, Massachusetts to Otto Emil Plath and Aurelia Schober. Otto Plath was a professor of biology and German at Boston University. He was of German descent and had emigrated from Grabow when he was fifteen. Her mother was a first generation American; she was born in Boston to Austrian parents. Their common Germanic background indirectly led to their meeting in 1929. Aurelia Schober took a German class taught by Otto Plath. Aurelia was working on a master's degree in English and German at Bosto n University. Otto Plath was guided by his principles of discipline. Their background was one major source of for Sylvia's poetic imagery. Sylvia's brother, Warren, was born on April 27, 1935. After Warren's birth, the family moved to Winthrop, Massachusetts just east of Boston. Otto's health began to fail shortly after Warren's birth. He thought he had cancer as a friend of his, with similar symptoms, had recently lost a battle with lung cancer. "He refused to seek medical care due to the lack of a cure or effective treatment at that time. In 1940 after suffering ill health for years, Otto was forced to see a doctor for an infection in his foot. The doctor diagnosed the illness Otto has been suffering from as not cancer, but diabetes- -and not do advanced that it threatened his life. Otto's leg had to be removed in October after he developed gangrene, and he spent the rest of his days in the hospital rapidly declining." (Nuerotic Poets) Otto Plath died on the night of November 5, 1940. Her fathers's death scarred her permanently; theirs was an extraordinarily close relationship. In 1942, Aurelia moved the family to Wellesley so that she could return to work despite her own health problems to support her family. Sylvia began writing when she was only five years old. Her first publication was a short couplet she wrote when she was eight years old and published in the Boston Sunday Herald. She continued to write and publish poems in her junior high school newspaper. Plath consistently received good grades and earned recognition and publication as a writer, artist, and editor. Her senior year, her story "And Summer Will Not Come Again" was accepted for Seventeen magazine. She graduated from high school in 1950 at the top of her class. Her first national publication of one of her poems was "Bitter Strawberries" which appeared in The Christian Science Monitor just after graduation. Plath attended Smith College in North Hampton, Massachusetts, where she continued building her writing career. As stated in an article on Neurotic Poets website , "she began developing bouts of depression, insomnia, and thoughts of suicide as evidenced in her journals. "To annihilate the world by annihilation of one's self is the deluded height of desperate egoism. The simple way out of all the little brick dead ends we scratch our nails against.... I want to kill myself, to escape from responsibility, to crawl back abjectly into the womb." In June 1953, she was diagnosed with depression and was prescribed electroshock therapy which was thought to the best treatment for her. While undergoing treatment, she developed acute insomnia where she did not sleep for three weeks and became immune to sleeping pills. On August 24, 1953, Plath broke into the family lockbox to steal the sleeping pills that had been taken away from her when she was left alone for the day. She left a note that she was going for a long...
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