Sylvia Plath - Biography and Works

Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, Massachusetts, is an American poet, whose work is known for its savage imagery and themes of self-destruction, and for the violent protest of a feminist persona generalizing male as the agent of all sorts of oppression upon women and humanity.

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)

She was educated at Smith college and Newnham college where she met the poet Ted Hughes and married to him in 1956. Born in Boston as a daughter of a Prussian father and Austrian mother, Plath’s was married to the English poet Ted Hughes in 1956 and lived in England until she divorced with him in 1962.

Her father had died when she was only eight, and she remembered him throughout her life as a dominating man who left her a destitute, poor and exposed to intense suffering and trauma. Her rebellious outcry against a father image comes partly from this. In 1953, she suffered the first bout of depression due to overwork, attempted suicide, and was hospitalized for six months. In 1958, she attended Robert Lowell’s poetry writing seminar and met the profoundly confessional poets of the time; so her later poetry is confessional to some extent. On her third attempt at suicide, Plath successfully took her life at the age of 29, in 1963.

Many believe that she committed suicide because she failed to define and defend herself against the destructive effects of the male-made traditions, society, poetry, and even language! Most of her poems are charged with anger against the male and the male world and traditions. Plath sets her poems against the backdrop of classical myth, nature and history, turning people and family members into archetypes. As Lowell commented, “In her poem, Sylvia Plath becomes… one of those super-real, hypnotic, great classical heroine”. Plath is also usually an impressionist and surrealist poet. Generally, considered a confessional poet and an ‘arrant’ feminist by many, she also wrote poetry of domestic life (like the ‘Morning Song’) especially in the early days of her poetic career. Autobiography is another unignorable dimension in Plath’s poetry; but she always transmutes personal experience and issues into a representative agony as a female and a human being.

Plath’s poems employ vivid, memorable images depict a world of anguish. “Daddy” dramatizes the hate and love a young woman feels for her father, who died when she was only eight. “Medusa” tells of a daughter’s troubled relationship with her mother. In “The Jailer,” a wife expresses anger at her brutal, self-centered husband. Poems such as “Ariel” and “Lady Lazarus” explore feelings of despair. “Three Women” presents the thoughts of woman as they experience the pain and joy of childbirth.

Though little known at the time of her death, she became famous with the publication of Ariel (1965), a collection of her poems; The Collected Poems (1981) won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

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Sharma, Kedar N. "Sylvia Plath - Biography and Works" BachelorandMaster, 25 Nov. 2013,