Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The poetry collection Ariel established Sylvia Plath as one of the most famous confessional poets of the twentieth century. Like Anne Sexton, her contemporary, and other confessional poets, including Robert Lowell, Plath wrote about taboo subjects such as depression, mental and emotional instability, and familial and domestic problems. Her poems challenged Cold War mentality and the mid-twentieth-century expectations of conformity, often lending themselves to psychoanalytic interpretations.
Plath’s intense poems deconstruct the boundaries between public and private selves, and most of the poems in Ariel are understood by readers and scholars to be autobiographical. However, it is important to understand that the personas of the Ariel poems are fabricated; the “I” of the poems is only loosely autobiographical. Plath carefully distances herself from the speaker of the poems in direct ways. For example, in perhaps the best-known poem, “Daddy,” Plath positions the victimized speaker as a Jew and her vampire father as a Nazi; furthermore, the poem is replete with references to the Holocaust. Plath, however, was not Jewish and her father was neither a fascist nor a vampire. This poem, like Plath’s others, should be read as authentic in its emotional intensity and in its depictions of psychological states, rather than as strictly autobiographical.
The art of Ariel, including its use of controversial...
(The entire section is 1352 words.)
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