Sylvia Plath was a gifted writer, poet and verbal artist whose personal anguish and torment visibly manifested itself in her work. Much of her angst stems from her warped relationship with her father. Other factors that influenced her works were her strained views of human sexuality, her sado-masochistic tendencies, self-hatred and her traditional upbringing. She was labeled as a confessional poet and biographical and historical material is absolutely necessary to understand her work.
Syliva Plath was born on 27, 1963, in Boston, Massachusetts to Otto Emil Plath and Aurelia Schober. Otto Plath was a professor of biology and German at Boston University. He was of German descent and had emigrated from Grabow when he was fifteen. Her mother was a first generation American; she was born in Boston to Austrian parents. Their common Germanic background indirectly led to their meeting in 1929. Aurelia Schober took a German class taught by Otto Plath. Aurelia was working on a master’s degree in English and German at Bosto n University. Otto Plath was guided by his principles of discipline. Their background was one major source of for Sylvia’s poetic imagery.
Sylvia’s brother, Warren, was born on April 27, 1935. After Warren’s birth, the family moved to Winthrop, Massachusetts just east of Boston. Otto’s health began to fail shortly after Warren’s birth. He thought he had cancer as a friend of his, with similar symptoms, had recently lost a battle with lung cancer. “He refused to seek medical care due to the lack of a cure or effective treatment at that time. In 1940 after suffering ill health for years, Otto was forced to see a doctor for an infection in his foot. The doctor diagnosed the illness Otto has been suffering from as not cancer, but diabetes- -and not do advanced that it threatened his life. Otto’s leg had to be removed in October after he developed gangrene, and he spent the rest of his days in the hospital rapidly declining.” (Nuerotic Poets) Otto Plath died on the night of November 5, 1940. Her fathers’s death scarred her permanently; theirs was an extraordinarily close relationship. In 1942, Aurelia moved the family to Wellesley so that she could return to work despite her own health problems to support her family.
Sylvia began writing when she was only five years old. Her first publication was a short couplet she wrote when she was eigh...
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...hould be able to control and manipulate experiences even the most terrifying, like madness, being tortured, this sort of experience, and one should be able to manipulate these experiences with an informed and intelligent mind….” (Uroff 37)
Plath’s work is valuable for its ability to reach today’s reader, because of its concern with the real problems of our culture. In this age of gender conflicts, broken families, and economic inequities, Plath’s forthright language speaks loudly about the anger of being both betrayed and powerless. She was hailed as literary symbol of the women’s rights movement and a feminist writer of great significance. Sylvia Plath began by creating art that imitated life, but ended when life imitated art.
Butscher, Edward, ed. with and introduction. Sylvia Plath: the woman and the work. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1977.
Plath, Sylvia. The Journals of Sylvia Plath. Ed. Ted Hughes and Frances McCullough. New York: Ballantine Books, 1982.
Sylvia Plath. Ed. Brenda C Mondragon. n.d. Web. 18 May 2015. http://www.neuroticpoets.com/plath/
Uroff, Margaret Dickie. Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1979.
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