Sylvia Plath's Depression Reflected In Her Work

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Annabeth Hopper
Amy LaPalme
English 101
5 12 2016
Sylvia Plath’s Depression Reflected in Her Work Sylvia Plath, an extremely influential and beloved female poet who lived in the mid-20th century, was the author of numerous poems as well as the semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar. Her work, especially that of her adult life, heavily reflects the darkness and depression that she dealt with. Plath, born in October of 1932, began writing at a very young age. Her first published work, titled simply “Poem”, was published before she had even turned ten. Plath wrote many short stories during her early years, and she even won several writing competitions. One of these was a fiction contest that earned her a position as guest editor at Mademoiselle
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She writes about this in the poem “Tulips”, in which nature is used to symbolize aspects of her life during treatment. Plath opens the poem with: “The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here./ Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in” (“Tulips” 1-2). The winter analogy is commonly used in poetry, and in most cases the winter and snow representing feeling lonely, sad, or isolated. In Plath’s case, however, the isolation is not just emotional isolation, but also physical. While in the mental hospital, she was isolated from the outside world and the people in it. Being confined to a hospital creates a feeling of great division, and this likely caused Plath to struggle in her treatment. She views the people in the outside world as “tulips”, bright and red, which are a stark contrast against her white, cold world inside the hospital. The contrast also plays into the four seasons. Tulips bloom during spring, which is commonly seen as a desirable and happy season. In spring, flowers bloom and baby animals are born. The season is full of life, unlike winter, when the harshness of the cold weather causes plants to die and animals to retreat into hibernation. Plath feels like winter, while everyone in her life feels like …show more content…
“Elm”, written about her toxic marriage to poet Ted Hughes, mainly focuses on her struggle to recover from her husband’s infidelity. However, much like many of Plath’s other pieces, elements of the poem can be interpreted as referring to her ongoing battle with depression. A prime example of Plath’s writing that can be interpreted in different ways is the line “I am terrified by this dark thing/ That sleeps in me” (“Elm” 31-32). Many choose to interpret this dark thing as her remaining love for her husband. Since the idea of love directly correlates to the overall theme of the poem, this is a popular interpretation of what the “dark thing” is referring to. However, considering Plath’s mental state at the time of writing, it can also be argued that the dark thing “sleeping” inside her is more likely the personification of her depression. Other lines in Sylvia Plath’s “Elm” reference both her heartbreak and her depression at the same time. Plath writes, “I have suffered the atrocity of sunsets”(16). By this, she means that she has had to suffer through the horrific ends of beautiful experiences. The most obvious of these beautiful sunsets that ended tragically is Plath’s marriage to Hughes. This metaphor can apply to more than just her relationship, however. It can also be applied to her life. Plath’s early life was, for

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