The Inclination Towards Darkness By Sylvia Plath Essay

The Inclination Towards Darkness By Sylvia Plath Essay

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Sylvia Plath’s poetry reverberates with universal female experience and anxieties; it addresses a female upbringing, pregnancy, childbirth, marriage while also critically engaging with stereotypes of femininity, often illustrating these through myth or metaphor. These feminine themes are recurrent throughout her poetry, often written about with a sense of ambivalence or fear. Putting aside Plath’s own autobiographical influences in the production of this poetry, the inclination towards darkness is a notable trend among women drawn to writing. Plath’s poetry often draws upon stereotypes, and this may reflect the toxicity of the ‘Poetess’ and stereotypic, often creatively paralysing, expectations that underpin the label. Germaine Greer notes that female poets feel pressure to “cannibalise” themselves because “unhappy women will be attracted to poetry, and that poetry will give their unhappiness permanent form in intransigent text” (Greer, 391). This ubiquitous desire to be heard, and remembered, is one driving-force behind writing; but the societal expectation of women’s figurative, and literal, silence in the public sphere makes this difficult. Simone de Beauvoir writes that few “women who attempt to dabble in literature or art persevere; those who overcome the first hurdle very often remain divided between narcissism and an inferiority complex” (de Beauvoir, 761). It is clear that female poets are locked in a crisis of identity, caught between harmful categories of narcissism or inferiority, very few are able to break into the literary canon and garner the same respect as their male counterparts. Betty Friedan said “the only way for a woman, as for a man, to find herself, to know herself as a person, is by creative work of her own...


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...ine, Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique, published in 1963, may provide the best cultural backdrop against Plath’s work. Like many of Plath’s poems, it focusses on the relationship between the woman and domesticity. While The Feminine Mystique will complement Plath’s domestic poetry, other feminist critical texts and her own autobiographical insight will prove useful to provide context when analysing the poems based beyond the domestic, particularly mythologised accounts such as ‘The Colossus’. Plath demonstrated an awareness of female oppression in her lifetime, and her own relationship with femininity is a contentious debate. Marianne Egeland comments that “Sylvia Plath has been presented as a martyr for poetry, for feminism, a divided modernistic self, and écriture feminine” (Egeland, 285). Some critics argue this feminist label is a post-humous insignia, a

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