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AS and A Level: Sylvia Plath
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Common errors when writing about Sylvia Plath
- 1 When writing about both the poetry and the prose, remember to write about technique as well as content.
- 2 Avoid sweeping generalisations about social attitudes, conventions and gender relationships in the 1950s and 1960s.
- 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 Check your quotations carefully. Misquotations or quotations which make only partial sense never impress the marker.
- 5 The author should be referred to as Plath or Sylvia Plath, not Sylvia.
Writing about Plath's poetry
- 1 Plath’s poetry is often densely metaphorical and sometimes obscure. It is acceptable to acknowledge this, and offer tentative or alternative interpretations.
- 2 Most students comment on Plath’s arresting use of simile and metaphor.
- 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 ‘The Bell Jar’ is best described as semi-fictionalised. Do not assume it is a fully autobiographical account of Plath’s experiences.
- 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 Consider paragraph length and how Plath uses it to reflect the content and mood.
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