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Sylvia Plath was a remarkable twentieth century American poet. Her poetry focused on depression, aspects on suicide, death, savage imagery, self-destruction and painful feelings of women. Plath attempts to exorcise the oppressive male figures that haunted her life served as one of the fundamental themes in her poetry.
Her poetry is a good example on how "suffering and transformation could be within traditional poetic contexts" (Initiation p.142). She also believed that a poem "must give an expression to the poet's own anguish because suffering has become the central fact of historical and personal existence" (Initiation p.143). This is what she believed and how she dealt with her problems by expressing her feelings through poetry. Though what was expressed in her poems also portrayed her fate in suicide.
Sylvia Plath was born on October 27, 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts to Otto and Aurelia Plath. Her father, Otto Plath was a German biology professor at Boston University. Her mother, Aurelia, was a high school English teacher, until she married and became a homemaker. When Sylvia was only eight, her father died from complications of undiagnosed diabetes, which also scarred her for life. At this same age she started her career as writer she published her first couplet in the Boston Sunday Herald, and since then has persistently worked on poetry and her writings.
In high school, she was a remarkably intelligent, popular, student. She was the typical "Straight A's" girl. As a member of the National Honors Society, she received a scholarship to attend Smith College in 1950. While studying creative writing and graphic arts in her third year of college, she was a guest editor in Mademoiselle Magazine. Shortly after that, on August 24, 1953, because of extreme depression, she attempted to commit suicide for the first time by taking a large dose of sleeping pills. She was later treated with intense psychotherapy and electroshock therapy in a private hospital. After a long recovery, she returned to Smith College and graduated in 1954. This incident is well described in the Bell Jar, her second published novel.
By now her career as a poet and writer was not going well, after forty-five rejections from newspapers and magazines, Seventeen magazine agreed to have one of her stories to be published. Later, it was announced that she had received third place in Seventeen Magazine's writing contest.
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Shortly after Smith College, she received another scholarship to Cambridge University in England. There, she met her Ted Hughes, a British poet, whom she married in 1956. He became one of her top priorities, and she continued to live in England together with him and her new job as being a typist. She published her novel, The Colossus and Other Poems in the United States. This volume received very little recognition and no awards. Her health started to
deteriorate and in less than two years after the birth of their second child, she was separated and was left broke.
She then began writing her other novel, The Bell Jar. The Bell Jar is an autobiographical fiction about a young writer whom has many psychological crises and contemplations of suicide. This story allows the readers to see what she has gone through emotionally in and through her college years.
On February 11, 1963, Sylvia Plath had commit suicide. She placed her head inside a gas oven, allowing her to suffocate. During her apparent suicide, her children were asleep in their rooms. In order to keep the natural gas out of their rooms, she closed their doors, and sealed them to prevent them from dying. She also left milk and bread near the beds of her children, so they would be able to eat in the morning.
Sylvia's poetry has received numerous of awards and recognitions for her outstanding poetry and writings. Some of these awards include a Pulitzer Prize for poetry from her book Collected Poems. In 1955, her most memorable year, she received the Dylan Thomas Honorable Mention for the "Parallax". She also received, the Glaslock award, the Marjorie Hope Nicholson Prize, and many more.
Overall, Sylvia Plath was a sad, eccentric, mentally depressed, yet, a brilliant artist of all time. Though her poetry, she brings the readers to an amazing experience as if they can relate to a and personal crisis of their own like her.
1. "Plath, Sylvia". The World Book Encyclopedia. 1976
2. "Sylvia Plath Biography". November 18, 2000. http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Lofts/7327/boheme/plath.html
3. Rosenblatt, Jon. Sylvia Plath; The Poetry of Initiation. 1979.