Sylvia Plath

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How did Sylvia Plath address the theme of feminism in her poetry?

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Plath, suffering from a lack of confidence and self-esteem felt compelled to hide her talent. Plath's poetry is filled with feminist issues that stem from her own life experiences. She struggled with insecurities resulting from a cheating husband and the need to please him. She also felt compelled to conform to society's demands of the time and she pushed against this, leading to a tragic end in her life.

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Sylvia Plath, an American author considered one of the most emotional writers of the post war period, was a deeply troubled individual who committed suicide at the age of 30.

"A complicated literary personality whose biography is nearly impossible to disentangle from her writing, Plath has often been regarded...

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as a confessional poet, though her deeply personal lamentations often achieve universality through mythicallusion and archetypal symbolism."

Focusing on feminist issues through the lense of her own experience, she was equally driven by a desire to achieve while coping with a desperate lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem. The loss of her father at an early age contributed to her fears of abandonment and insecurity.

"Viewed as a cathartic response to her divided personae as an artist, mother, and wife, Plath's works have been heralded by feminist critics for illuminating the personal and professional obstacles faced by women in the mid-twentieth century."

Plath, a talented poet and writer, living in an era that defined a woman's role, in a male dominated society, felt confined by a society that demanded she be a Barbie doll.  Pushing against this demand, and the personal struggles resulting from a cheating husband, drove her over the edge.

Plath struggled with feelings of inadequacy and was viewed as a victim after her death by critics.  Struggling with psychiatric issues most of her life, her genius was almost extinguished before it had a chance fully flourish. She felt inadequate, insulted by the constraints of society and she wrote about them in "Ariel," where she speaks for all women, a startling feminist view, lashing at the patriarchal order.

"Now your head, excuse me, is empty.I have the ticket for that.Come here, sweetie, out of the closet.Well, what do you think of that?Naked as paper to start

But in twenty-five years she'll be silver,In fifty, gold.A living doll, everywhere you look.It can sew, it can cook,

It can talk, talk, talk." (Plath)

If she had lived in a later era, not in the 1950s or 1960s, and struggled with her identity as a wife and mother, would she have been able to survive the tragic circumstances of her life?  Maybe she would not have felt so hopeless, maybe she would not have felt compelled to commit suicide at the age of thirty leaving behind her children? Constantly fighting her own feminist battle, Sylvia Plath never escaped the childhood trauma of losing her father and the need to please him.

Plath, in her writing, and in her life struggled with her need to be loved and accepted as a woman and her need for solitude to write, think and create.  Battling against each other, she wrote about them in her journal.

JOURNAL ENTRY November 7, 1959, Saturday.…

"Dangerous to be so close to Ted day in day out. I have no life separate from his, am likely to become a mere accessory. Important to take German lessons, go out on my own, think, work on my own. Lead separate lives. I must have a life that supports me inside. This place a kind of terrible nunnery for me. I hate our room: the sterile white of it, the beds filling the whole place. Loved the little crowded Boston apartment, even though J. Panic visited me there." (Plath)

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