Much of Sylvia Plath's poetry and her only novel, The Bell Jar, reflect her feelings of mental instability. Plath grew up in Massachusetts and was an intelligent and successful writer at a young age. She was living an American dream. However, her idyllic life was more like a nightmare for Sylvia Plath. She drove herself hard; it was important to her to succeed. When she began to doubt herself and the world around her she became mentally ill.
Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, Massachusetts on October 27,1932, to Aurelia and Otto Plath. Mr. and Mrs. Plath were both from Germanic backgrounds. Mr. Plath was a professor of biology and German at Boston University who liked discipline and order in his home. According to Mrs. Plath, the day that Sylvia Plath was born Mr. Plath said, "'I hope for one more thing in life-a son, two and a half years from now.' Warren was born April 27, 1935, only two hours off schedule, and Otto was greeted by his colleagues as 'the man who gets what he wants when he wants it' " (Letters 12). In 1936 the Plaths moved to Winthrop, Massachusetts. When Otto Plath became ill with what he feared to be cancer, he refused to see a doctor. What he actually had was diabetes, and by the time he went for treatment there was already permanent damage. He died shortly after Plath's eighth birthday (Austin 411). The impact of her father's death comes through in much of her later poetry, such as "Daddy" and "The Colossus."
Aside from her father's death, Sylvia Plath's childhood was relatively normal. Aurelia Plath moved her family to Wellesley, Massachusetts, where she found a job teaching high school German and Spanish. Growing up with a single working mother was not uncommon for many children at this time because of...
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...and Madness. New York: Seabury Press, 1976.
McClatchy, J.D. "Short Circuits and Folding Mirrors." Sylvia Plath: New Views on the Poetry. Ed. Gary Lane. John Hopkins Univ. Press, 1979. Rpt. in Modern Critical Views: Sylvia Plath. New York: Chelsea House, 1989.
Ostriker, Alicia. "'Fact' As Style: The Americanization of Sylvia." Language and Style. Vol. 1, No. 1. Board of Trustees Southern Illinois Univ., 1968, 201-212. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vol. 17. Ed. Sharon R. Gunton. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1981.
Plath, Aurelia Schober, ed. Letters Home. New York: Harper and Row, 1975.
Plath, Sylvia. Ariel. New York: Harper and Row, 1961.
_____. The Bell Jar. New York: Bantam, 1971.
_____. The Colossus and Other Poems. New York: Vintage Books, 1968.
Stevenson, Anne. Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1989.
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