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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. Analysis of ‘The Highwayman’.

    moonlight over the p cloudy urple moor' I love these metaphors as they are so true.My favourite is 'The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas' as I have thought that in my head before when I have seen the moon. All these metaphors set off the poem interestingly. There are many characters in 'The Highwayman' who are all described differently. Obviously the main character is The Highwayman who is described as wearing: 'He had a cocked hat on his forehead' 'A coat of claret velvet and breeches of doe brown skin' This makes me think he is a hero and not a villain, because he is well dressed and obviously quite flirtatious.

    • Word count: 763
  2. “Poets See the World through Eyes Different from Other People” - How far do you think this comment applies to the work of Sylvia Plath?

    This double negative helps to back up the emptiness, solitude and lack of purpose Plath feels in life. Plath tends to reinforce the topics she brings up and shows this as she continuously uses the word blackberries to give the reader a sense of their huge number. Plath uses alien metal objects such as 'hooks' and 'pewter'. This metallic theme is also reflected in some of her other poems (i.e. Mirror). Plath uses this type of personification to great affect and she also uses similes and metaphors to help bring the poem to life. Theses techniques help bring feeling and depth to what would otherwise be a very dull poem.

    • Word count: 1625
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. Explore the way the theme of old age is presented in "Old ladies home" by Sylvia Plath

    It is likely that this poem was set in the early 1900?s, meaning that women at the time would still have been considered lower in society than men. They were considered useless for any kind of laborious work, as were old people. So, when women reached old age they were removed from the wider community so they didn?t infringe? it was almost like society was ashamed of them. However, when reading this we have to remember that, as the poem was set so many decades ago, care homes are not going to be like the one presented anymore.

    • Word count: 1954
  6. In Sylvia Plaths poem Morning Song, the poet expresses a range of fluctuating emotions during her journey through motherhood

    Furthermore, this mentioned watch is a ?fat gold watch? ? the adjective of gold gives us an idea the importance of the newborn and the ?fat? alludes to the newborn?s chubby and rounded shape. In the next two lines, ?The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry/ Took its place among the elements,? the notable words are ?bald? and ?cry? where the words are again monosyllabic and sets the brave moment that a new person has come to the world.

    • Word count: 2052

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