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AS and A Level: Sylvia Plath

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Common errors when writing about Sylvia Plath

  1. 1 When writing about both the poetry and the prose, remember to write about technique as well as content.
  2. 2 Avoid sweeping generalisations about social attitudes, conventions and gender relationships in the 1950s and 1960s.
  3. 3 Avoid giving the impression that Plath’s work is entirely autobiographical. It may well be based on actual events in her life, but the process of creative writing always involves an element of transformation.
  4. 4 Check your quotations carefully. Misquotations or quotations which make only partial sense never impress the marker.
  5. 5 The author should be referred to as Plath or Sylvia Plath, not Sylvia.

Writing about Plath's poetry

  1. 1 Plath’s poetry is often densely metaphorical and sometimes obscure. It is acceptable to acknowledge this, and offer tentative or alternative interpretations.
  2. 2 Most students comment on Plath’s arresting use of simile and metaphor.
  3. 3 You should also consider alliteration, assonance and repetition in addition to looking at regular and irregular rhyme schemes, rhythmic variation and variety of verse forms.

Writing about 'The Bell Jar'

  1. 1 ‘The Bell Jar’ is best described as semi-fictionalised. Do not assume it is a fully autobiographical account of Plath’s experiences.
  2. 2 Consider the tone of the novel as well as its content. Useful words to describe the variety of tone in the novel include: conversational, humorous, detached, ironic, fragmented, bleak, and introspective.
  3. 3 Consider paragraph length and how Plath uses it to reflect the content and mood.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 5
  1. The poem Jilted, written by Sylvia Plath, has its subject based on the disappointment of love which resulted from a female being neglected by her male lover,

    Overall, it is obvious that the tone of this poem is sour and caustic. The title "jilted" is a word that has harsh sound which already hints to readers that the poem is not about any pleasant or happy experiences. In the first stanza, Plath compares her tears to vinegar, which is a substance that is corrosive, pungent, and stinging. The word vinegar shows on a surface level that her relationship was over, emphasizing the fact that she is extremely depressed.

    • Word count: 411
  2. In the poem 'A Poem should not mean but be' the poet causes the reader to question themselves over how they read a poem, how they see it.

    This is what the Poet is trying to get across to the reader of this poem 'Does it work when the word happiness is pronounced?' here right from the start of the poem the Poet asks the question 'Does it work when the word happiness is pronounced?' he is putting this question to the audience forcing them to think does it make it happen?, does it bring it to life?, happiness?. In this quote from the poem the Poet is asking the reader are they really feeling the feeling and emotion which is being expressed in poems when they read them rather than just seeing the words.

    • Word count: 717
  3. How does Plath use intricate patterning of sounds, words, images and rhythm to create an impact on the reader?

    This patterning of sounds can also be seen in her other poems. For example in Miss Drake Proceeds to Supper, in which she patterns the 'd' harsh sound to create a faster pace and cutting mood. Plath creates imagery in many of her poems with the use of colour. In Daddy she patterns the use of colour from black and white in the first stanza to black and red in the eleventh and twelfth stanza. The colours black and white are antithetical and when placed in close proximity connote racism, or in this case fascism.

    • Word count: 957
  4. Re-read 'A Birthday Present'. By means of close analysis of the language of this poem, demonstrate how Plath achieves her effects in this poem, and by means of BRIEF reference to one or two other poems, say how typical of her writing you find it.

    By using this linguistic device Plath creates a 'seesaw' effect between positive ('beautiful') and negative ('ugly') lexis. Plath uses this device of conflicting lexis throughout the poem creating a tension. Furthermore, it can also be said that Plath uses these binary oppositions on a more subtle level to create the theme of good vs. evil. This theme can be seen in some of Plath's other poems. Take 'Face Lift' or 'Morning Song' for example, the theme of good and evil is represented by the images of babies she juxtaposes with those of death.

    • Word count: 729
  5. How powerful is The Bell Jar as a feminist text?

    If they did it was expected that they were looking for a husband. The other girls in Esther's dormitory in college told her she was wasting her "golden college years". Throughout the book, there are many possible role models for Esther, not all of who have a positive influence on her. Jay Cee is an experienced, successful editor at the magazine where Esther has won an internship. Plath writes of Jay Cee as being somewhat masculine. This may have been because at the time only men were successful so she felt for a woman to be successful she had to be manly.

    • Word count: 937
  6. Explore The Way Plath Presents Nature and The Natural World In The Poem "Tulips".

    As we can see so far in the first and second paragraph she is trying to detach herself ?I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses? this shows us that she has given up, she has detached herself from her family and life. Plath makes out that she is meaningless and lifeless ?my body is like a pebble to them? she describes herself as an object, a cold stone which is worthless and means nothing to no one, something that isn?t alive.The contrast of personal pronouns in the third paragraph ?they? emphasises that she is passive as she is throughout the whole poem.

    • Word count: 670
  7. Analysis of "The Applicant" by Sylvia Plath

    Another way to read this poem is that the applicant is a man applying to receive a wife as if a wife is some kind of a product-and it almost seems as if the voice of the poem is trying to talk this man into accepting a defective product; trying to convince him that a defective wife/product is better than no wife/product, especially in the second to last line of the piece, in which it is flat out stated to be a 'last resort'.

    • Word count: 687

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