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GCSE: Sylvia Plath

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Sylvia Plath's biography

  1. 1 Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) was an American poet, novelist and short story writer.
  2. 2 Her father died when she was eight and this had a profound effect on her – see her Daddy poem.
  3. 3 She suffered from depression. Her breakdown, subsequent suicide attempt and the electroconvulsive therapy that followed are recorded in her novel 'The Bell Jar' and her poems.
  4. 4 Academically gifted she went on to win a Fulbright Scholarship. She then met and married the poet Ted Hughes and had two children.
  5. 5 Hughes and Plath separated in 1962. She committed suicide by gassing herself in the oven the following year. She is the first poet to be posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

How to write essays on Plath's work

  1. 1 Use correct literary terminology to accurately analyse poetic techniques.
  2. 2 Focus on the question and refer to it in the introduction and conclusion.
  3. 3 Embed quotes to show knowledge and understanding of the poem.
  4. 4 As Plath's poems are very autobiographical it is necessary to include aspects of her biography in your response.
  5. 5 Use topic sentences at the beginning of each paragraph to focus on answering the question.

Plath's ideas and expression

  1. 1 Plath was the forerunner of what is now termed the 'confessional poetry' genre as many poems are autobiographical.
  2. 2 Her poems are full of personal and nature based imagery such as skulls, blood, hospitals and the moon.
  3. 3 Plath wrote from a female perspective and her work was adopted by feminists who called her a 'symbol of blighted genius'.
  4. 4 A lot of her poems have a sense of imprisonment and looming death, overshadowed by her father. The poetry collection Colossus deals with themes such as death, resurrection and redemption.
  5. 5 After she and Ted Hughes broke off their relationship she wrote over forty poems in two months with the themes of love, rage and despair.

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  1. Frozen Eyes -Explore and analyse the use of imagery of death and violence in Plaths poems

    Yet each stanza is end-stopped by either an 'I' or 'You' - pronouns that differentiate her from the 'Jews'. However in Leon Wieselter's view he finds that 'whatever her father did to her, it could not have been what the Germans did to the Jews'. Plath becomes 'stuck in a barb wire snare', has her 'pretty red heart' bit in 'two' and allows a 'vampire' to drink her 'blood' for a year, consequently becoming a victim. Comparing herself with the 'Jews' she underlines the torture, but the hyperbole is essential in representing the extent of her pain. Torture is existent in all humans; the Jews were tortured by Germans -strangers, but Plath was tortured by her own father.

    • Word count: 2429
  2. Nikolas Nickelby

    Screenwriters Jeb Stuart, Jeffrey Boam, Frank Darabont, and Jeff Nathanson wrote drafts, before DavidKoepp's script satisfied all three men. Shooting began on June 18, 2007, and took place in various locations: NewMexico; New Haven, Connecticut; Hawaii; Fresno, California; and on soundstages in Los Angeles. To keep aesthetic continuity with the previous films, the crew relied on traditional stunt work instead of computer-generated stunt doubles, and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski studied DouglasSlocombe's style from the previous films. Marketing relied heavily on the public's nostalgia for the series, with products taking inspiration from all four films. Anticipation for the film was heightened by secrecy, which resulted in a legal dispute over an extra violating his non-disclosure agreement and the arrest of another man for stealing a computer containing various documents related to the production.

    • Word count: 820
  3. How does Plath use imagery and symbolism to discuss the themes of life and death?

    This shows that she doesn't want to change her perspectives of desiring death more than life. Peacefulness can be represented by the color white, or death. In the first half of Tulips, she said "I am learning peacefulness" in a place with "white walls", "gulls", and "white caps". She doesn't feel death as intimidating as it happens all around her everyday. She is in a hospital, and the hospital gives her peace, that is why she imagines white as the color of the path that will lead her to eternal peacefulness that she has desired. The tone of "I am learning" sounds like an innocent child, suggesting that she actually doesn't fully understand what death is and what it means.

    • Word count: 1116
  4. Sylvia Plath

    She shows her commitment and determination to be a good mother in the 5th stanza, "One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow heavy and floral" This demonstrates her love for the baby, as she is quick to her feet, showing her determination and anxiety about caring for the baby. "All night your moth-breath, flickers among the pink flat roses. I wake to listen: A far sea moves in my ear" Plath is obviously still amazed at her baby, and during the poem she proves how anxious she is to care for it.

    • Word count: 635
  5. Warning and mirror

    Plath is helpless in her old age she uses unusual imagery like "rises towards her day after day like a terrible fish" which shows us how she grows older each day and also it emphasizes the ugliness of her in old age. Joseph on the other hand explains that she has to "make up for the sobriety of my youth" so her life will be more active in her old age and more carefree since she will not worry about what she does.

    • Word count: 570
  6. The poems of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes tell the story of lives that have become unendurable. Do you agree?

    In the 1950s this was the ideology that almost every woman accepted. Plath was probably one of the "victims" of this ideology. The main thing in the ideology which Plath was completely against was the right women to work. At that time Plath wrote this poem she and Hughes were already divorced so she was in desperate need to find a well paid job, which was almost impossible at that time. The poem represents the women as a person who has no rights at all, especially for paid work.

    • Word count: 1717
  7. Sylvia Plath's Daddy

    At the start of the poem however, Sylvia Plath does not use a very aggressive tone. The tone slightly changes throughout the poem as Sylvia Plath creates a build up of strong emotions of anger and hatred towards her father. This can be clearly shown by comparing stanzas one and ten. In stanza one she writes:" ...you do not do anymore black shoe in which I have lived like a foot. For thirty years, poor and white barely daring to breathe or achoo."

    • Word count: 761

    This is how the narrator feels. When she is happy all the colours in the story are bright. This also makes the reader feel happy and colourful. Near the end of the story the colours start to get darker like when it says "the black shadow creeping up the underside of the world". This shows that the dark is slowly creeping in the narrator's life. In the beginning the narrator thinks about superman and colour most of the time but ever since she saw the film about the Japanese prisoners her life changed.

    • Word count: 737
  9. Sylvia Plath:"Daddy" The poem "Daddy" uses language to a great effect to express the bitterness and frustration endured by the writer Sylvia Plath after the traumatic death of her father. Sylvia's father Otto Plath was a German immigrant who was

    In the first stanza, Sylvia reveals to us her own "so-called" status compared to her father. "Any more, black shoe In which I have lived like a foot..." Stanza 1, line 2. This gives us the image of a big, black shoe with a small foot inside. It is metaphor for her father, the shoe, and of her, the foot. By disclosing the condition of the relationship between her and her father, we become aware of what we are actually going to be reading about.

    • Word count: 1182
  10. Consider the two poems Mirror and Blackberrying carefully, use the following for purposes of comparison and contrast

    However the mirror sees this and reflects it back to the woman, who feels it in a negative way and who does not like the truth, and who eventually in the end is affected badly and sees herself as 'a terrible fish'. This is different however, in the poem Blackberrying, which compared to Mirror and the majority of poems written by Plath is very positive. In this poem Plath indirectly writes about the walk of life as well, which is represented by the winding lane with different problems along it, however even though the lane does corner and bend life as a whole this time is viewed from a much more positive view as mentioned before.

    • Word count: 1563
  11. Look again at "Mirror" in which Plath explores ways in which we see ourselves and others. Compare this poem with one other poem which also deals in some way with social interactions.

    She has distinct fears of aging and being alone. Plath talks from the point of view of a lake, therefore about herself, from the outside. She also represents her view of others by using a wall, candles and moons. "Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon", this is an illumination of being betrayed romantically. This makes the reader understand how she feels about the world and a strong element of sorrow comes across in the poem She has obviously suffered a great loss, from love.

    • Word count: 773
  12. Look at 'mirror' and one other poem from a woman's point of view. Compare how they present woman's views of themselves and others.

    Both poems contrast each other perfectly because 'mirror' is about a negative view of the future and her old age but 'warning' has a positive view of the future and old age. Each poems title has a meaning to it, 'warning' means that people should be warned by how this woman will act in her old age, and the poem 'mirror' means that the mirror which the poem is about, is talking about appearance and how the woman referred to in the poem will look in her old age.

    • Word count: 677
  13. In Sylvia Plath's poem, Metaphors, she uses striking imagery to explore her ambivalent attitudes about pregnancy. For example, she uses a negative metaphor saying she is an elephant,

    The narrator has a range of feelings such as positive because she is going to have a baby e.g. "O red fruit". This metaphor means that she feels that the baby is precious. Also, all the metaphors about the baby are positive. However, she is also negative because her body gets a lot bigger e.g. "An elephant". This metaphor means that she feels she is enormous like an elephant. Also, all the metaphors about her are negative. The poem creates a lot of powerful imagery, for example in the second line of Metaphors; the narrator portrays herself as a "Ponderous house" this means she thinks that she is housing the baby until it is born.

    • Word count: 835
  14. Mirror and Warning

    The lady also portrays her life to be like a non-living thing mirror, lake. This is because she describes her life to be less objective comparison to Warning. Here Jenny Joseph describes the lady to be quite cheerful, happy, and looking forward to old age. There is a rhythmic pattern in Warning. The repetition of the word 'and' and ' I shall' goes on through out the whole poem. The word and suggest Jenny Joseph is writing while she's thinking, as she goes along perhaps. This is telling the readers she is looking forward to her future and old age.

    • Word count: 910
  15. Compare And Contrast The Way Plath Presents The Speaker's Fears In Three Of The Poems That You Have Studied

    The box is full of something very dangerous. If the box were to be opened then the speaker would be unleashing hundreds of bees and yet she describes the box as being something pleasant instead of ominous and foreboding. Then as the poem progresses the speaker becomes obsessed and fascinated with the box and is unable to leave it, absorbed by the power that she possesses over the bees. "It's like a Roman mob," could be referring to the fact that the emperor in ancient Rome had complete control over the lives of the many people and she now could similarly let all the bees, "die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner."

    • Word count: 1327
  16. Compare Plath's view on motherhood with 'You're and 'Morning Song'

    I think she does this because it is her first baby and she wants to protect her. Also the use of 'fat' and 'gold' emphasises how much the baby is worth and how precious it is to her. Even though the poem is positive to start with it quickly moves into a state of jealousy, 'I'm no longer your mother.' Here Plath accepts that the baby has all the attention now the baby is born, whereas when she was pregnant Plath was getting used to the idea of her getting all the attention and people caring for her.

    • Word count: 919
  17. To compare and contrast three short stories from the anthology

    In 'Your Shoes' the relationship is between the mother and her daughter, husband and her mother. The theme of loss in the story come from the daughter running away and the mother feeling she has lost her. There is symbolism used in 'Flight' and 'Your Shoes' but not in 'Superman' to show relationship. In Flight the grandfather's favourite pigeon was a representation of his granddaughter, what he does to his pigeon is what he wants to do to his granddaughter for example the grandfather wants to keep Alice and doesn't want to let her go, this shown when he 'shuts the bird into a small box and fastened the bolt' (Line 20-21).

    • Word count: 1526
  18. The relationship between Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes

    Ted Hughes's obsession of death is clearly expressed in some of his poems. And also Sylvia Plath's mind is in under stress causing it to for depression to reoccur in her life with Ted. The writers also explore the different way in their books and poems. Esther's mind forays into the world of mentally ill, where as Ted Hughes's physical affairs with other women is compromising because he was not well connected to Sylvia and they did not have a happy life with each other.

    • Word count: 786
  19. "Discuss the usefulness and limitations of employing metaphors as a means of analysing organisations. Illustrate from organisations with which you are familiar"

    Metaphors are partial and one-sided in their analysis. The picture they paint can be taken to extremes and produce a misleading view. By considering the metaphors used, and how they are employed in organisations we know, we can examine the usefulness and limitations they provide when analysing organisations. And if we remember both their usefulness and limitations, we can use the positive aspects of metaphors and become skilful in their application, and the ability to create our own metaphors to fit certain situations, gaining an improved and necessary understanding of the organisation.

    • Word count: 2081
  20. Art and Madness

    If it is temporary insanity that elicits such insight, then Plath and Kane surely meet the qualification. Both suffered from depression so severe that at times they were psychotic. However, the correlation between creativity and psychosis is vigorously debated among the psychiatric world. Some find it difficult to ?reconcile the superior qualities of creativity with the disabilities of madness? (Claridge, Genius and the Mind, 228). A relatively recent development is the emergence of the dimensional view of psychosis, which stresses that the association, if it exists, lies in the underlying personality and cognitive traits that creativity and madness might have in common, rather than the psychotic state that mediates the connection.

    • Word count: 2613
  21. An Exposition on "Kindness": A Movement Within Concentric Circles.

    Notably, the poetic narrator is very passive to her surroundings while she goes through this inner turmoil. Even though she is physically near, her detachment is obvious in her detailed observations of Kindness, "glid[ing]" about, "filling" the house with "smoke" and "smiles". This reflects a certain numbness that gives her the distance to objectify her surroundings: "What is so real as the cry of a child?" The drop of such a sudden, pert question strikes a contrast to the nice, neat flow of the first stanza. Here semblances of the poetic narrator's pain are introduced. Arguably, she could be talking about her crying children or her own state of struggle for her children against herself. Perhaps both.

    • Word count: 833
  22. How to define literature?

    One of his central arguments against poetry is that it is harmful to human soul, for it addresses to the inferior part of the soul, and encourages us to indulge in emotions which ought to be kept firmly in the control of reason. By dealing with our emotions and activating our natural desire to weep and wail at misfortunes, literature (especially epic and tragedy) disables our rational responses and makes us incapable of using our reason in dealing with misfortunes.

    • Word count: 1154
  23. Moments of change in the modern short story and how they are expressed.

    to kneel by the west window of my room and look over to the lights of Boston that blazed and blinked far off the darkening water'. The above quote taken from the story reflects on Sylvia's perception of life as a childhood, it supports the idea that children view the world in a totally different way. Also in the opening of this story Sylvia mentions: 'The airport was my Mecca, my Jerusalem. All night I dreamed of flying'. By saying this Sylvia has almost shown a kind of devotion to her dreams when she was a child, she associates the airport with two of the holiest cities in the world.

    • Word count: 2220
  24. "Growing Up" the main character experiences something that changes his view of things. Compare the story with one other from the selection, in which a character experiences a kind of change.

    to the person by her first name and surname which is a very childish and typical thing for a young child to do when they speak of an event. Furthermore it can also represent the fact that this memory is still very vivid because she can remember the full name and uses it, "Paula Brown" instead of just using Paula and the use of the adjective "new" also shows that the memory of this event is still clear to the narrator.

    • Word count: 1704
  25. 'Disaster in the Alps'- To compare the way three news publications, The Times, The Mirror and Newsweek, an American weekly news magazine, reported the same incident.

    The tone is much more factual and is not as colloquial as popular press. The sentences are usually quite complex; hence the paragraphs are quite lengthy. The graphics are usually informative rather than biased or seeking attention. Moreover, in The Times, the sound effects would usually be limited to puns. Foreign publications, such as Newsweek, generally contain features of both popular press and quality press. The Mirror contained quite a lot of factual information. The article informed the readership that "20 skiers" "plunged 300ft to their deaths" after a low-flying American "warplane" "sliced through the wire of their cable car."

    • Word count: 3161

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • "Growing Up" the main character experiences something that changes his view of things. Compare the story with one other from the selection, in which a character experiences a kind of change.

    "In conclusion the stories are quite similar as in both stories the main character's relationships develop and are both disappointed by their immediate family. Furthermore this development in relationship leads to an experience of growing up and realising the way things actually are as well as how they will affect the future of the main character. However they are also quite different in their own styles, as "Superman and Paula Brown's New Snowsuit" is written in first person narration and is clear visual memory which Plath tries to describe as vividly as possible to the reader with the excessive use of language features; metaphors, similes and colour vocabulary. Whereas "Growing Up" is written in third person narration and has a brief more abrupt involvement along with metaphors only really being used at climatic points in the story. Both stories do use contrast to build up an atmosphere and tension so that when the climax is reached it is much more effective because when looking at the story in context before the climax you shouldn't be expecting the incident that occurs. Anjana Johal 11E"

  • Look at 'mirror' and one other poem from a woman's point of view. Compare how they present woman's views of themselves and others.

    "So in my opinion both these poets have both effectively shown how they contrast each other, but they still both show their views and opinions from a woman's point of view thus making it more effective as both poems are written by woman, and they are both about appearances and how they view there futures."

  • Compare poems written by Carol Ann Duffy and Sylvia Plath.

    "I found the two poems very different in subject, however they make the reader feel the same way. War Photographer is a factual poem which leaves you open to interpretation by the reader as to whether you personally react to things you read in the papers, whether you don't care just because it's not happening to you. The second poem, is a poem which many people can relate to, especially teenagers of this time, as many teenagers become insecure at this stage in their lives. The way the poet described the obsession which developed could be related to many people. Zo� Reynolds 04/05/2007 "Write an essay comparing the poems War Photographer by Carol Ann Duffy and Mirror by Sylvia Plath looking particularly at contrasts within both the poems.""

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