Sylvia Plath; The Imperfect Perfectionist.

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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. She uses reoccurring imagery associated with the three protagonists in her life, and poetry in attempt of breaking free from the chains of a “tortured mind of the heroine”.

The relationship between Plath and her mother was very ineffectual, or that is how she exemplifies it through the use of her poetry. “Medusa”, which is said to be based on her mother is like a fantasy tale gone wrong. Plath creates a grotesque fictional jellyfish like character personified by the character of her mother. There is not even a little love being expressed in this poem, unlike ‘Daddy’.

        “Who do you think you are?…A communion wafer? Blubbery Mary?

This is a hate poem, as the lines show no affection expressing hatred to such a level that the language used is so blunt and rude that it is hard to distinguish any relation between them. They also represent proof of the suppressed anger, which has brought Plath down in her life. The poem is made of many flashbulb memories, which are created at a time of high emotion. Memories of this kind are thought to be very accurate and so we cannot challenge Plath’s recollection of these events to prove that they are false, however, throughout her poems, Plath shows a habit of inflicting pain upon herself in exaggeration of the cause and affect. She uses the same technique of reminiscing about the past, whilst exploiting the pain and suffering she underwent in “Daddy”.

Another psychodynamic approach originates from explanations of attachment. Freud put forward an account, known as ‘cupboard love’, based on the child’s attachment with its mother. He states that the reason the child is attached with its mother is because they know that their mother will provide them with their needs without delay. These high expectations from a mother may also be the reason for Plath’s anger towards her mother. Plath may have blamed her mother for the death of her father, and built hatred for her for the fact that she was unable to bring her, her dad back. Stan Smith, a Marxist has similar views. He believes “a writer is a creature of circumstance”, and Plath was a creature of emotional torment. Her father’s death drove her to insanity, making her more and more obsessed with her father’s death.

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Plath always recalled her dad through the imagery of the foot. She felt that the foot was to be blamed for the death of her father and used it as an excuse to build revulsion against him.

        “In which I have lived like a foot”…”The boot in the face”

Daddy is a good example of her disillusions about her father. These quotes taken from “Daddy” show her misrepresentations of her father as a brutal and obsessive man, however it is learnt from many sources that his character was often described as “authoritarian” and maintained a relationship with his ...

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