Research Paper on Sylvia Plath

9 September 2016

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.

Research Paper on Sylvia Plath Essay Example

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 writes about them in her poem Ariel.

This is an interesting statement because in The Bell Jar, Plath does not make men in general sound good at all, so what is written in Ariel must be completely awful. Plath also always has strong women roles in her stories, which give evidence that Plath may be a feminist. This may be because that is what the characters in both her novel The Bell Jar and her poem Ariel are. Corrigan doesn’t know if Plath’s feminism is political or social, but that they are also shown in her poem Daddy, portrayed angrily.

Plath’s main character in The Bell Jar was never really happy with herself for what she was and never felt like she could do what she wanted to, which eventually led to her going crazy. This leads Corrigan to question how any woman could ever perceive anything through Plath’s work if they were looking for freedom and self knowledge because her roles of women are so bitter. Corrigan describes how Plath’s poems are shocking and that they “tear life wide open”. These qualities, she says, bring meaning to the heavy day-to-day process and tend to hide what is really going on.

They don’t show the reality in the poems and focus on instead a very big plot or surprise within the work. Finally, according to Plath, women’s lives continuously go downhill from the moment they are born which may indicate that Plath was insecure and unhappy with herself. Plath probably even recognized this quality, but didn’t do anything but embrace it (Corrigan). Maloff’s first description of Plath’s The Bell Jar from his criticism, “The Poet as Cult Goddess”, is “schoolgirlish” because there is no imagination and the events are taken from life and not written into anything special.

He says the book is chronological and that if Plath’s “madness” had started before prior events, that it would be better for those people searching for a more mystical story. Plath did drag on the main character, Esther’s, climb to madness for quite a while which made the story line quite boring for the first few chapters. He describes how the book isn’t special because the suicidal acts are random “forms of tantrum” and undeserved. The only feeling the story really has is spitefulness because this book was written in Plath’s life experiences under a character’s name (Maloff).

Taubman respects Plath’s writing style and says that her novel The Bell Jar is very clever in his criticism, “Anti-heroes”. He points out that the main character, Esther, is very smart with the world but does not belong in Boston or New York. Big cities may have been the cause of her madness because they can be stressful at times and Plath did not need that added to her already, hard life. He declares that Plath has a different kind of smart and that it is portrayed in her breakdown. She doesn’t go mad in a disturbing way, because it is seen more as a burden on herself more than anyone else.

He says that Plath just “jumps to conclusion” on unqualified evidence and decides to do harmful things to her body, even though she is “quite sane”. This may be because Plath wanted to feel like she would make an impact on someone, perhaps make them feel bad as though it was their fault she killed herself (Taubman). Synthesis Essay Part III Free From Life Sylvia Plath is an author of many poems and one novel. Her life is an emotional rollercoaster that eventually leads to deep depression. Plath’s first novel was published when she was just eight years old, and her love of writing blossomed from there.

She often gets bad reviews which piles on to more unhappiness than she already has due to her father’s death. In her only novel, The Bell Jar, Plath writes completely about herself and her life through a character named Esther. In her novel, she expresses her climb of insanity through undescriptive diction that captures her true style of writing, explains her smalls steps to becoming suicidal and attempting to kill herself, reveals herself as a very opinioned woman who feels that dying is the answer to everything, and impacts the pre-modern era by supporting women’s liberation.

Sylvia Plath’s style of writing is impacted through the trials she has gone through with depression. At times, her writing is very thought out and contains good analogies and other literary devices, but most of the time her book contains undescriptive diction. Critic, Saul Maloff, declares “nothing is imagined; the events come straight out of life, untransfigured; the madness and suicide are facts like any other. No insight, no illumination, no irony, no following wisdom” (Maloff). Maloff is correct on his statement. Plath does not have a good way with words.

Her novel, The Bell Jar, is full of stories from her life mashed up into a book with a clever title on top. She doesn’t connect with the reader and doesn’t explain herself thoroughly when describing why she went mad. Another critic, Phoebe-Lou Adams, has a similar point of view to Maloff. She says “It is also highly autobiographical… [but] never solved the problem of providing the reader with the clues to the objective reality of episodes reported through the consciousness of a deranged narrator” (Adams). Again Plath’s writing is said to not being descriptive enough.

This is a common struggle for Plath that is present in a lot of her work. Her lack of excitement for life also plays a big role in the fact that her writing is dull because why would someone who wants to die care about being descriptive. Plath’s insanity did not come all at once, it took a while for her to realize how crazy she really was. In fact, as a teen, she was even considered a “model daughter”. Everyone wanted to be like her because she was popular, smart, and a perfect, but this did not last long. Plath describes her climb of insanity in The Bell Jar, and gives the reader clues of how crazy she is getting by providing evidence.

A quotation from her novel states: I hadn’t, at the last moment, felt like washing off the two diagonal lines of dried blood that marked my cheeks. They seemed touching, and rather spectacular, and I thought I would carry them around with me, like the relic of a dead lover, till they wore off on their own accord… ‘Why lovey, what’s happened to your face? ’ ‘Cut myself,’ I said briefly and crawled into the back seat…” (Plath 112-113) In this quotation, Plath perfectly describes how much she cares about herself and her physical appearance.

It portrays that Plath’s craziness has gone to such a level that doing these abnormal things seem quite elegant and possibly even pretty to her. Taubman has an interesting point of view on Plath’s suicide as well. He claims “Despite the asylums and shock treatment, she goes mad in a rather undisturbing way, partly because she writes about it with such bright assurance, partly because it’s seen much less as a failure in herself than as a judgment on the world” (Taubman). His opinion is very optimistic in a way that it makes the reader think about what kind of a person Sylvia Plath is.

If he truly believes that she wasn’t depressed because she was a failure, then why would so many of her poems be written about things in her life including depression, feminism, and oddly enough, failure. It is possible to say that Plath didn’t blame herself for this horrible self-destruction; instead she blamed the world for not trying to make her stop doing it. Eventually Plath’s craziness gets to such a level that she believes death would be better than living. In The Bell Jar, Plath wrote a lot about different ways of killing herself. She often wanted to try them right then and there, but didn’t have the right supplies.

This is shocking because most people believe that life is something to be cherished and not throw away. Sylvia Corrigan, a critic, also shares this same opinion, she says, “There can be no doubt that her poems are charged with an electricity that shocks, tears life wide open, that exposes a rawness and a meanness under thick blankets of the ongoing process of day-to-day life which tends to muffle the real facts of being”(Corrigan). Plath didn’t find life an adventure at all. She was continuously trying to find something to be unhappy or complain about, which is the theme in The Bell Jar.

A quotation from the book states “I fixed my eyes on the largest cloud, as if, when it passed out of sight, I might have the good luck to pass with it” (Plath 101). Plath always thought about death, whether or not death was near. It could be seen in the most happiest times in her life or most saddest, but it always seemed to be in the back of her mind. It often came up in her novel The Bell Jar, foreshadowing Plath wanting to die. She even attempted it a few times and ended up living afterward, which is ironic because all she ever wanted to do was stop living forever,

Sylvia Plath impacted her pre-modern time period a lot because she had a strong opinion on women’s liberation. Corrigan exclaims that the feelings of woman’s roles in Plath’s works are “often so complex that it is difficult to glean any evidence of a truly feminist bent. She is a feminist in the sense that she perceives inequalities and expresses them excruciatingly well; but there is no prescription for positive thinking or acting…” (Corrigan). At this point in time, Plath is very defensive of her rights as a woman because they are starting to be questioned.

She writes about them a lot in her poems and especially in her book The Bell Jar. She seems to feel the need to make sure that women are equal but she doesn’t care about what kind of role she is putting out for people to see. In Taubman’s criticism he says “…her sharpness is expressed in such an inner-directed way that on the rare occasions her thoughts get out and touch the world at all they do so only a tangent: ‘If there’s anything I look down on, it’s a man in a blue outfit. Black or grey, or brown even. Blue just makes me laugh’” (Taubman). Plath really did not like men very much and it is clearly shown in this quotation.

She goes to the silliest extremes to make men feel bad just to look down upon them. Especially now that people know that she is a feminist, it is shocking that she kills herself with two children left behind. If she were a true believer, she would have been strong and fought the battle of depression instead of giving up so easily and letting her era down. It is also ironic how she wanted more rights for women, but she was not willing to keep up the fight so future generations could have them. This shows just the kind of person Sylva Plath really was; deeply unhappy, strong willed, weak hearted.

Sylvia Plath’s life is filled with depression and craziness. She struggles with the ability to stay strong for her people when they truly need her most. In her only novel, The Bell Jar, she writes about her life and in it, expresses her climb of insanity through undescriptive diction that captures her true style of writing, explains her smalls steps to becoming suicidal and attempting to kill herself, reveals herself as a very opinioned woman who feels that dying is the answer to everything, and impacts her era by supporting women’s liberation but falls short of strength to pull through and truly fight for it.

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