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Sylvia Plath was born in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts to middle class parents. Her father was domineering and abusive, he passed away when she was eight years old. This was an extremely difficult incident for Plath to deal with. Although Sylvia Plath's career as a poet was a short one, there is quite a difference between her early poetry and the poetry she wrote in the last six months of her life. She had a limited audience, but became more eminent due to her tragic death. Readers are able to find the humanity of her life through the unraveling of her poetry. "Ariel”, was a poem written during Plath's final months. In class we read three poems called “Morning Song”, “Daddy”, and “Event”. Her use of alliteration, slant rhyme, imagery of the horrible and unnatural, and her recurring themes of lost identity or re-created identity are very perceptible in her writing. In “Ariel” Plath allowed her unique voice and vision to more fully surface, compared to her other poetry. The Ariel-period poems of Sylvia Plath demonstrate her desire for rebirth.
In Plath’s poem “Morning Song” she is describing the birth of her second child and the trials of the first night with a new offspring. Usually giving birth is a celebration in most people’s lives, but Plath’s experience was a melancholic and dramatic one.
Throughout the poem readers can pick up on the fear and phobia she is feeling. “Love set you going like a fat gold watch. The midwife slapped your foot soles, and your bald cry
took its place among the elements”. It seems she is trying to accept this occurrence as much as she can, but she is in a fragile state. She describes the baby like a statue in a museum, Plath feels very uncomfortable with the art that she has created. She portrays the baby in a vulnerable state all through the poem, for example when she writes, “All night your moth-breath flickers among the flat pink roses”. The title “Morning Song” means the child’s cry in the morning. Plath did not know how to deal with this experience in her life, and she did not approach situations the way mothers typically do. This poem demonstrates how she deconstructed the episode and broke it down to the bare. She gives the reader a glimpse of what a harsh and lonely world she lives in.
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Another and more intense poem we read in class is called “Daddy”. Plath finished this poem the day after, Ted Hughes her husband left her. The poem is about a woman, who we would most likely consider to be her, struggling to finally end her life-long guilt over her father’s death. The language that Plath uses in "Daddy" is very dominant in illustrating the poem's meaning. In the beginning of the poem Plath sees her father as a black shoe. This metaphor symbolizes her father’s strict and disciplinary ways, she could not breathe and all he did was crush her with his shoes. This poem is thick with images of Hitler and WWII German symbolism, which portray Daddy as an evil, horrible man. “It stuck in a barb wire snare, ich, ich, ich, ich, I could hardly speak. I thought every German was you.” She portrays herself as a Jew terrified and fearful of Hitler, which is her dad.
“An engine, an engine chuffing me off like a Jew.” Creating this status of characters shows that Plath's father had a great deal of control over her. The memories she had of
her father is mostly clarified in this poem. There was no physical abuse in their relationship, but she suffered emotional abuse and trauma, and so she is vulnerable and scared. Plath’s father died of diabetes, which he could have prevented because he set no restrictions on himself after knowing about his disease. The fact that her father could have prevented his death left Sylvia Plath with a feeling of deliberate betrayal, she was unable to put closure to his death. A number of years after the death of her father, Plath begins treatment with electroshock and psychotherapy. She tried to commit suicide more than once. This traumatic experience scared her,
“Bit my pretty red heart in two. I was ten when they buried you. At twenty I tried to die. And get back, back, back to you. I thought even the bones would do. But they pulled me out of the sack, And they stuck me together with glue.”
The final poem written by Sylvia Path prior to her death is called “Event”. In this poem she seems to be reminiscing all that is of importance in her life. “ The moonlight, that chalk cliff, In whose rift we lie.” She talks about two cliffs outside her window, which symbolize her and her husband. Plath shows that she cannot bear with the Childs’ cry. She describes the cry of an owl that symbolizes harbinger of death. In this poem she tries to reveal her death wish, she is not satisfied with herself and with what she has.
Plath's brilliance can be fully viewed in the Ariel poems; it was not the experiences that wrote the poems but rather the true poet that wrote them. Robert Lowell
explains how Plath uses her poetry by saying, “her art’s immortality is life’s disintegration.” Plath achieved in poems what she thought she could not or did not
achieve in life: the ability to do what she wanted. She lived her fantasies through her writing, and solved the problems she had in her life through her work. Lowell writes,
“there is a peculiar, haunting challenge to these poems. Probably many, after reading Ariel, will recoil from their first overawed shock, and painfully wonder why so much of it leaves them feeling empty, evasive and inarticulate.”
To fully understand her poems and the meanings of her metaphors and the symbols she uses a reader should first examine her life. She uses her imaginative inner world to create remarkable and authentic poetry.