I am writing a research paper on the suicidal poet Sylvia Plath. Are there any things I should emphasize especially?

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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  • You can divide her life into three sections: juvenalia (her young period of writing as detailed in The Bell Jar), the Colossus years (her first book of poetry), and her Ariel years (her last book of poetry).  Ironically, two of her three major works, The Bell Jar and some of Ariel, were published posthumously. 
  • You can also divide her life geographically: years writing in suburban Boston; her college years (in the U.S. and Europe); and her married years in Europe to Ted Hughes.
  • And, further still, you can divide her life up into suicide attempts: she attempted suicide about every 10 years, I believe: when she was around 10 (drowning); when she was 20 (sleeping pills); and, finally, when she was 30 (gas; carbon monoxide).  She mentions these attempts (all but the last) in her poem "Lady Lazarus":

I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it--

  • Still, yet again, you can divide her life topically by her external problems with men, materialism, motherhood, and marriage and her internal problems with mental illness (depression, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder). 
  • But, the best part of Sylvia Plath is her art: focus on her daring, luminous verse.  Her poetry has a confessional, no-holds-barred, in-your-face voice to it.  Plath's creativity is no doubt tied somehow to her madness, which is singular in American poetry.

Best of luck...

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