Sylvia Plath

Today I thought I’d say a few words on my favourite author. Sylvia Plath is sadly one of those women in history whose works are forgotten, and her voice has been drowned out in favour of her husband’s, the ‘legendary’ Ted Hughes, who wrote famous poems such as ‘The Thought-Fox.’

But Plath’s words speak just as loud as Hughes, and her poetry speaks to women, past and present, in a way that I have not seen rivalled by any other poet.

Sylvia Plath’s poetry is something like genius, and her poems are so full of life and meaning- and so incredibly deep- that even when I read them for the fiftieth time, they still send shivers down my spine. Recently I bought an anthology of Plath’s poetry, edited by Carol Ann Duffy, and discovered once again how much I appreciated her imagery, words and depth.

Plath’s poem ‘Lady Lazarus’ is still my favourite. I know that many people know this one, as it is the one that is taught in schools, and certainly this is probably a popular choice, but the words Plath uses are so meaningful that I can’t not state it as my all-time favourite poem by her.

Plath’s poem ‘Daddy’ also has a lot of depth and meaning, and the clear anger and emotion that comes through in Plath’s words is something which cannot be rivalled. Granted, Plath was clearly battling with some serious mental health issues, and her early death is something which often overshadows her work, but the time right before her death was one of the happiest times of her life according to her journals.

Her poetry is fantastic for reflecting every little emotion Plath felt, every single one strong and raw.

I also love Plath’s poetry for its empowerment. The way in which Plath demands to be heard through her words really does give me a sense of empowerment and strength in myself.

As a woman, how can the poem ‘Lady Lazarus’ not make you proud to be a woman, and feel as though you needn’t be dependent on anyone but yourself? This thought is incredibly important to instil in women now as much as it was in the 1960s.

Plath’s writing is so timeless. Her novel ‘The Bell Jar’ has many contemporary links, despite being written in 1963. This novel speaks of Esther Greenwood’s dissatisfaction living in a society where women have so little choice, and where women are expected to either be alone forever, or settle with a family, with no chance for both.

I also like how Esther views the male world, seeing the inequalities that surround her, and Plath should be heralded as a feminist writer, expressing such modern views as early as 1963. The following quote refers to a drug which makes a woman forget her pain, rather than takes it away, thus ensuring she will continue to have children.

“I thought it sounded just like the sort of drug a man would invent.”

Although we may have come a long way since the days of Esther Greenwood, women are still oppressed in our society, and the lack of options open for women is clear.

I also find the ideas Plath expresses about virginity particularly interesting, and certainly can be seen in today’s society. Plath, speaking through Esther, expresses her wish that less importance was placed on the concept of virginity, hating the way in which society expects women to be ‘pure’ at marriage.

“Then the stories of blood-stained bridal sheets and capsules of red ink bestowed on already deflowered bridges floated back to me.. I couldn’t possibly be a virgin any more. I smiled into the dark. I felt part of a great tradition.”

I can see how this really links with today’s society, and all too often women are judged by their ‘morals’ regarding their sexual behaviour- whereas men in society are simply seen as ‘playing the field’ should they sleep around before settling down. It’s interesting how Plath wrote her novel in 1963, but that is still very much the view in 2018.

“All I’d heard about, really, was how fine and clean Buddy was and how he was the kind of person a girl should stay fine and clean for.”

Do you like Sylvia Plath’s writing? Have you read any of her poetry? Do you think she should be considered a “classic” novelist and poet?

Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below 🙂

Happy reading x

Picture credits here

6 thoughts

  1. I’ve actually never read her works and you’re right, her suicide does overshadow it. But, oh, what a way to die! I’d feel so claustrophobic sticking my head in the oven, not to mention a myriad of other thoughts! Takes a certain someone, and a broken-enough one at that, to carry it out. They say all geniuses are a little mad, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really does, but her work is just so brilliant, I really recommend it! 🙂 Hmm, yes, it doesn’t seem a great way to die. They do, yes, although I’d like to think there can be some authors who are talented, and yet still see themselves positively… It seems unlikely though 😉


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