Sylvia Plath’s Mourning and Creativity

Good Essays
Sylvia Plath’s Mourning and Creativity


In this article, I concentrate on the connection between mourning and creativity

in Sylvia Plath’s work. Melanie Klein postulates that the pain of mourning and the

reparation experienced in the depressive position is the basis of creative activity.

Through creative activity, one can restore lost internal and external objects and lost

happiness. I argue that Plath’s work is an example of Klein’s idea that artists’

creative products represent the process of mourning. For Plath, art -- in her case,

writing -- was a compensation for loss, especially the loss of her father. She seems

to have continued writing as her exercise in mourning and reparation trying to

regain not only her bereaved father but also her internal good object which was lost

when her father died. Through her writing, Plath attempted to enrich her ego with

the father-object.

Keywords: Sylvia Plath, Melanie Klein, mourning, creativity, reparation

In her paper, “Mourning and its Relation to Manic-Depressive States,”

Melanie Klein claims that the work of mourning is a reliving of the early depressive

position. I would like to quote Klein's account:

My experience leads me to conclude that, while it is true that the

characteristic feature of normal mourning is the individual's setting up the

lost loved object inside himself, he is not doing so for the first time but,

through the work of mourning, is reinstating that object as well as all his

loved internal objects which he feels he has lost. He is therefore recovering

what he had already attained in childhood. (Klein, 1988a, p. 362)

According to Klein's hypothesis, the loss of the present object in the external world

brings with it the mourner's unc...

... middle of paper ...

...lath, 2000, p.


Works Cited

Arnold, Matthew, The Poems of Matthew Arnold, ed. by Kenneth Allott, 2nd ed. by

Miriam Allott (London: Longman, 1979).

Ellmann, Maud, ed., Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism (London/ New York:

Longman, 1994).

Melanie Klein, Love, Guilt and Reparation (London: Virago, 1988a).

---, Envy and Gratitude (London: Virago, 1988b).

Plath, Sylvia, Letters Home: Correspondence 1950-1963, ed. by Aurelia Schober Plath

(London: Faber, 1976).

---, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams and Other Prose Writings (London: Faber,


---, Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath, ed. by Ted Hughes (New York: Harper & Row,


---, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, ed. by Karen V. Kukil (New York:

Random House, 2000).

Segal, Hanna, “A Psycho-Analytical Approach to Aesthetics,” International Journal

of Psycho-Analysis vol. 33 (1952).
Get Access