Sylvia Plath’s Life

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Elizabeth Winder’s Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 illuminates different aspects of Sylvia Plath’s life. However, Winder depicts Plath not as the mythologized martyr of a collapsed marriage or the tragic woman poet with a debilitating illness but rather as a young girl wanting to immerse herself in the rich, material culture of her time. Winder’s biography gives insight to the life of an intelligent young woman amidst the gender constraints of mid-century America, a theme that is further explicated in Plath’s novel, The Bell Jar. Though often compared to the likeness of the protagonist of her semi-autobiographical novel, Plath showed many initial differences. As documented in the biography, Plath travels to New York in the spring of 1953 as one of the twenty young women selected for an internship as guest editors at Mademoiselle. However, unlike the protagonist of her novel, Plath is euphoric for her trip, having splurged on sheaths, skirts, and nylons at various boutiques weeks before. Having not been entirely social in her successful academic career, a young Plath was immensely interested in garnering new friendships and exploring different avenues of interests such as fashion and aesthetics. A product of her time, however, Plath struggled to effortlessly mold a self both sexually independent and fashionably and career oriented. Not only was she overworked but many of the possibilities she thought she had were greatly limited. Women in the 1950’s were often expected to relinquish their attempts at careers in order to support their husbands. In other cases, such as with Crylly Abels, Plath saw that women were made to choose between success in arduous work and success in fashion and sexual experiences... ... middle of paper ... odds with the world. She longed for an infinite set of possibilities and the society she lived in only seemed to deny that. It may be up to debate to say whether these experiences were instrumental in her writing but it is evidenced that they played a major role in writing of The Bell Jar. These themes can be seen throughout her poetry and prose. As A. Alvarez describes, Plath uses her own person as the prime source and inspiration of her writing. However, the biography only supports that this summer led to some of the most drastic changes in her thought processes, a glimmer becoming unruly. Despite her voluminous entries, Plath seemed to be reaching back for this particular moment in her life, maybe as a springboard for a novel, maybe to finally be set free from that which sparked interest in her person initially, what seemed to validate so many of her pieces.
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