Tuesday, January 22, 2013

¡°She was forced to write that way¡­¡±

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Sylvia Plath, a talented American poetess, published her first poem when she was only eight. Her major success laid in the publishing of The Colossus-a series of poems by Plath-along with various other infamous poems (Brennan 15). Many critics were delighted of her use of proper techniques and considered it to be enjoyable for most intelligent readers and other poetry lovers of the like (Brennan 15). Plath lived a turbulent life; she expresses most of her pain in her work. This is especially evident in her poetry in Ariel, which is a collection of the poems published after her death, which she had written in the last five years of her life, before her suicide in 16 (Wagner-Martin 11). She is said to have made art from the crucial issues of her life, Wagner-Martin mentions that ¡°Plath has voiced anger as well as hope and she spoke of sorrow as well as joy¡± (11). Sylvia Plath¡¯s father died when she was young, however she never mourned for his death until a while after, which is evident in some of her poems about fathers and fatherhood. Plath was married to another famous poet, Ted Hughes, although Plath considered Hughes to be her ¡°ideal¡±, she soon became exhausted by the relationship for not only did she take on the role of a wife; she also became Hughes¡¯ business manager (Chapman ). The marriage between Plath and Hughes soon ended with outbursts of jealousy; Plath had discovered that Hughes was having an affair with another poet¡¯s wife (Chapman 7). Some of the finest poems she¡¯s ever written developed out of the pain and anguish, which she was feeling and then published in Ariel after her death (Chapman 7). To many readers, whether they¡¯ve studied Plath¡¯s work or not, would consider Plath¡¯s work to be self-therapy. Poems of darkness and emotional buildup, however what one should not rule out is the work that Plath has written for children or about children, for example The Bed Book. Although Plath has led a tumultuous life, not all her works surround the depressive occurrences in her life; it may be that her best work was developed during her pain staking trials, however there is no evidence that Sylvia Plath was only confined to her raw emotional works of poetry. Sylvia Plath¡¯s emotional roller coaster has played an enormous part it her becoming famous for her intense poetry and because of the lifestyle in which she was plagued with, where there were both positive and negative events; she has developed a well-rounded array of poetry. It is also important to note that perhaps without her emotional displays, Plath may not have even gained such fame in the first place. Her work is truly sincere and remarkable. Plath choose to use her most emotional states to her advantage, although she may have not done it intentionally, the world would soon discover the person behind the words.

The Bed Book, a delightful short story about the most imaginable beds has shown Plath¡¯s more delicate side through its simple rhyme and creativity. Noting that ¡°the best beds are much more interesting¡± than ¡°just beds for sleeping and resting¡± (Plath ). Plath has widened children¡¯s imagination by proposing that beds should be submarines, and have pillows of bread and even be pocket-sized. It is curious to note that the book was first published in 176, almost 14 years after her death. Plath had two children of her own and she even wrote some of her poems about them. Chapman mentions that it was in the poems about her children that readers got to see the gentler and more joyous side to Plath (5). Many critics have said that Plath¡¯s work is vivid and displays every aspect of good poetry, along with a sense of disturbance that is balanced throughout the context. Eccentricity in Plath¡¯s work is shown a bit through ¡°Two Views of a Cadaver Room¡± from The Colossus, where she mentions ¡°snail-nosed babies in jars¡± (Plath 10), this is particularly interesting because in her novel, The Bell Jar, she also mentions about preserved babies in jars (Plath 51). In her poem ¡°The Colossus¡±, Sylvia Plath portrays her need or wants to put her father back together

Scaling little ladders with gluepots and pails of Lysol

I crawl like an ant in mourning


Over the weedy acres of your brow

To mend the immense skull-plates and clear

The bald, white tumuli of your eyes. (11-15)

Through her choice of words and imagery, we see that she is absolutely minute in scale compared to her father. Plath shows herself crawling in the ruins of a huge statue (symbol of her dad) in hopes to repair it. It allows the readers to get a greater sense of how much Plath yearned for her father to come back and undo the injustice in which he had laid with the event of his death (Wagner-Martin 165). Plath labels the statue as an oracle, which is the source of wisdom she desperately needs, however can¡¯t understand (Wagner-Martin 166). It was twenty years after the death of Otto Plath, which Plath began to mourn for him. She was seeing her therapist for depression at the time and it was then in which she wrote what may be her most famous poem yet, ¡°Daddy¡±. In the poem she compares her father to a Nazi, a vampire and even a devil ¡°I thought every German was you/and the language obscene/an engine, an engine/chuffing me off like a Jew¡± and ¡°Panzer-man, panzer-man, O you/not god but a swastika/so black no sky could squeak through¡±. At the end of the poem, Plath ends with

There¡¯s a stake in your fat black heart

And the villagers never liked you.

They are dancing and stamping on you.

They always knew it was you.

Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I¡¯m through. (76-80)

In this shocking poem, Plath has showed her audience the true sense of anguish she felt about her father dying; she is also known to have seen her father¡¯s death as his ¡°desertion¡± from her (Chapman 11). Sylvia Plath was extremely good at putting her feelings into her work, although some of her poems that appear in Ariel, which may not have been meant to be seen, proves that Plath¡¯s emotions were real, thus incorporating it into her poetry would in no doubt welcome her poetic sympathized readers.

Sylvia Plath had a regular childhood; she was well cared for and loved. Plath loved visits to the ocean and was very observative (Wagner-Martin 16), perhaps that explains the detailedness in some of her work. Sylvia Plath¡¯s parents had good intentions for raising their daughter, however there is a mysterious wonderment to why Plath would later develop such an intriguing lifestyle. Perhaps it was because of Plath¡¯s mother, who was very good at making up stories to tell young Sylvia and her brother (Wagner-Martin 17) or maybe her dad, who¡¯s motto for raising his children was, as Wagner-Martin mentions ¡°to involve the children in his life, rather than becoming a part of their lives¡± (4). It is also said that Otto may have even treated Plath as a miniature wife (Wagner-Martin 4). Whether it was because of the parenting styles of her guardians, or Plath herself, it was definitely apparent that Plath was lacking some emotional attention. Wagner-Martin explains that Plath¡¯s mother confused the children by not showing any grief herself after the death of her husband, thus the children had no role model for their mourning, her mother went so far as to not let her children attend the funeral or the burial (8). One should question whether or not Plath¡¯s poetry about children or her work for children was to show her intentions of a truly happy childhood. By examining the fortunes and misfortunes of Sylvia Plath¡¯s childhood, it is evident that her experiences influence her writing about children. For example in her poem ¡°Balloons¡±, she seems to have mentioned her children playing with pink balloons

Your small

Brother is making

His balloon squeak like a cat.

Seeming to see

A funny pink world he might eat on the other side of it,

He bites,

Then sits

Back, fat jug

Contemplating a world as clear as water,

A red

Shred in his little fist. (0-0)

Here Plath shows the simplicity and beauty in how a child sees the world. Compared to some other poems, for example ¡°Edge¡±-which was thought to have been written during the planning of her suicide-has a much more calmer and whimsical touch to it. It is particular to note that in her poem, ¡°Edge¡±, she says that ¡°We have come so far, it is over.¡± however in reality it is just the beginning of her fame and legend. It is said that on the day of her suicide, Plath had left cups of milk beside her children¡¯s beds and had put tape around the doors along with stuffed towels underneath to protect the children from the gas (Chapman 41). She then went downstairs and turned on the oven and put her head in (Chapman 41). In her poem ¡°Edge¡±, it is as follows near the middle

Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,

One at each little

Pitcher of milk, now empty.

She has folded (-1).

It shows in her poem that she has thought about the suicide prior to the event, she must have been in an extreme depressive state for a while in order to have thought about the suicide and actually have gone through with it as well. To many the poem is beautiful, yet psychotic. Holbrook mentions how Plath wanted to ¡®fold back¡¯ her children back into herself (71) and this is shown in the poem

She is folded

Them back into her body as petals

Of a rose close when the garden

Stiffens and odors bleed

From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower. (1-16)

Holbrook suggests that it is giving sweetness, here implying that the rose closes on itself, as the garden (body) ¡°stiffens¡± and her children is folded back into her body (7). This poem is by far the most emotionally raw of Sylvia Plath¡¯s work.

Sylvia Plath was very dedicated to her work. Throughout her education as a student, she received a lot of straight-A¡¯s and always prioritized her work first. Chapman explains how when Plath married Hughes, she was willing to conform to society¡¯s expectations for a woman in the 150¡¯s, but only up to a certain point; she would not abandon her own goals and ambitions, which at that time of course was her writing (6). Plath was an intelligent writer, like many, she wrote about the things she cared the most about her emotional ups and downs, her love for her children and she even wrote politically (Wagner-Martin 11). Plath cared intensely about the arms race, nuclear power, and people¡¯s injustice to others (Wagner-Martin 11). Sylvia Plath did write about everything, thus making her a well-rounded writer. In her novel, The Bell Jar, Plath chooses the main narrator, Esther to be under going a ¡°rebirth¡±, having a clean start, which was at that time (spring of 161) to have been the goal of Plath herself (Wagner-Martin 187). In many aspects, the novel corresponds to Sylvia Plath¡¯s life, however Sylvia Plath has not said that it was about her, readers can see through some of the context that the main character in The Bell Jar and herself are fairly similar. It definitely seems to some degree that The Bell Jar was a story about Plath herself. Writers often write to leave a legend, or to cast down values and beliefs onto future generation readers, for Sylvia Plath, her sense of immortality really grew after her death. Sylvia Plath taught herself how to write brilliantly and it is through this kind of pure talent that readers seek freedom of expression and thought. The most intriguing subject matter that readers discover in Plath¡¯s work is her constant struggle with body and mind. Plath was an extremely intelligent person, however her actions do not speak in that manner. With her poetic words readers can see the progress and development of Plath as a person as well as a writer. For in the end, her struggle leads her to end her life, however she has surrendered her most intimate thoughts and processes for others to discover. Perhaps in hopes to help others understand better the state of existence or simply yet, to have a better understanding of herself.

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