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Sylvia Plath; The Imperfect Perfectionist.

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Introduction

Sylvia Plath; The Imperfect Perfectionist Sylvia Plath's poetry is an expression of "a personal and despairing grief". She had the gift of recreating her own past experiences in a complex form, so as to remove them from her present, that it started to seem like an obsession. Within this obsession her poems show a regular pattern of self-centeredness. It was this characteristic that lead her far from any "self-discovery" and "self-definition", and drove her to her death, "an art" as she words it. Plath readily exploits her emotions through the personified language to build a sinister and super-natural atmosphere, in attempt of creating a "valiantly unremitting campaign against the black hole of depression and suicide". However, her attempts went to waste when she committed suicide in the February of 1963. Plath's poetry enables the reader to unravel and look deep into her victimised mind. It was for this talent that she had received much praise, but much more criticism. Plath's poetry mirrors the life of Plath, and to make sense of her poetry it is important to try and have an understanding of Plath, to see things through her perspective. This is what most critics' lack, and so I have taken a step to try and understand her. It is for this reason I will take into consideration the perspective of psychoanalysts to aid me in my understanding of her, in particular the theories of Sigmund Freud, and the view of Marxists, to give me varied opinions. There are many themes common in her poems, each of which have equal importance, but I have chosen to analyse the themes of colour, family and relationships, and the self-inflicted pains she puts upon herself. Relationships were always a weak point in Plath's life. She has always felt disappointed by the relationships she had with others, especially that between her mother, father and husband. Her poems, which are partly stimulated by them, particularly "Daddy", "Medusa" and "Tulips", are a powerful source of "murderous art", where she was allowed to expose her bitterness towards them. ...read more.

Middle

His dominant status in the house oppressed Plath, and even whilst he was alive he wasn't able to give her the love that a young child needed. They also represent the initial discovery of the diabetes, that later killed him, because he was reluctant to have his leg amputated. By using these images Al Alvarez believes that "in 'Daddy' she goes right down to the deep spring of her sickness and describes it purely". I find this quite absurd that Alvarez has judged Plath's work as an account of her sickness, rather than an exclamation from a child who has been deprived of fatherly love and affection. It doesn't seem as if he has taken into consideration her emotions, and has made no attempt to try and understand her perspective. 'Daddy' is a cry of pain from a daughter who expresses incredulous psychological trauma because a father will not return unconditional love by surviving for her sake. Plath too, like any other individual should have the right to express this trauma, which is what most critics like Alvarez are forgetting and not allowing her to do. Many analysts also compare Plath's behaviour to the Electra complex. I disagree with this theory and don't think that Plath's feelings for her father should not be interpreted in a sexual form. Despite these in depth analyses, could it not be that Plath only uses the black shoe imagery as an extension of the Holocaust imagery, or even only as a link associated to her father? Liz Hood, a Marxist, believes that this over-depth study of the "black shoe" "may infact be an example of adding ones own interpretation to something which may in essence be a great deal more simple". I think this opinion should be taken very seriously when trying to investigate Plath' relationships and life. The "black shoe" could simply represent the initial discovery of her father's diabetes, but is very misleading to many. ...read more.

Conclusion

These are just a few of the many. When scanning through these words, you are able to connect them with the various events and emotions in Plath's life. This is why she tries to avoid red in her poems, in my opinion. However, there are exceptions. Plath feels she is able to use red as another sort of imagery to put across her feelings. This line taken from 'Tulip' is an example of the exceptions she makes. "The tulips are too red...their redness talks to my wounds...upsetting me with their sudden tongues and their colour, a dozen red lead sinkers round my neck...the vivid tulips eat my oxygen." These quotes show us to what extent the colour red causes her harm. In 'Tulips' Plath personifies the tulips, by making them able to physically hurt her, as shown by the quotes. However, as soon as she brings to light the redness of the tulip, her audience become aware of the negativity of the tulips, and a very tense atmosphere is created. By characterising the tulips she feels like everyone is victimising her, and so again brings a feeling of fear and oppression upon her. She uses red to replace someone, of whom she is writing about. The tulips are harmless, but the redness attacks her mind. "The patient attempts to escape by every possible means. First he says nothing comes into his head, then that so much comes into his head that he can't grasp any of it...at last he admits that he really cannot say anything, he is so ashamed to...so it goes on, with untold variations. I think this quote said by Freud is perfect to conclude Plath. The paper is Plath's couch, and the pen her doctor. Poetry is mostly created for the sake of releasing pent up emotions, that one finds impossible to keep inside them, similar to crying out, rather than creating poems for the sake of art. However, the main question, which will trouble many minds for generations to come, is, was Sylvia's outcry disguised behind a false persona? ...read more.

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