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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.

  1. In Morning Song, Sylvia Plath presents many ideas about the birth of her child, and the emotions and feelings that the event brings about.

    The child is also described by plath as a ?new statue?, in a ?museum?, further creating the effect that the child is essentially priceless and is cherished. The fact that ?New statue? is emphasised in a sentence of its own makes it stand out to the reader, and therefore has a powerful impact. In addition, the fact that Plath is said to have stood round ?blankly as walls? portrays the fact that the child is the centrepiece of this occasion and that nothing else matters.

    • Word count: 612
  2. In the poem Morning Song what feelings does the narrator feel about the birth of her child, and how does she present it?

    What is particularly interesting to note is the use of the adjective, ?gold?, which portrays the baby as a novelty, rather than an object to be loved. This idea is supported throughout the poem when the writer compared the baby to a ?statue?, again an object viewed by humans, not loved. Whilst one can argue this is just a simple use of metaphors, not to be taken literally, it can equally be argued that there is a definite lack of bond between the narrator and her baby which leads to an uncomfortable relationship.

    • Word count: 596

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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