Essay on Sylvia Plath Influence

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Sylvia Plath was a confessional poet through her influence, Robert Lowell. “Sylvia Plath explored the themes of death, self, and nature in works that expressed her uncertain attitude toward the universe” (New World Encyclopedia). As Plath's poetry developed, it became more private and personal towards her own life. Her poetry expressed inner demons and showcased themes to justify her reality. Sylvia Plath focused her poetry on her life and the obstacles she faced being a woman in the twentieth century. In her poems, she gave vivid and descriptive details of the hardships she went through by bringing in the themes of death and suicide. For instance, in her book of poems, “Ariel”, she discusses personal issues of her life such as conflicts with her father, dysfunctional marriage, and mental health issues. The death of Plath’s father influenced most of her writings. “She was left with feelings of grief, guilt, and anger that would haunt her for life and led her to create most of her poetry” (New World Encyclopedia). These feelings gave her work a personal haunting theme such as tragedy. Although Sylvia Plath is no longer present, due to suicide in the early 1960s, her poetry lived on and was published by other poets who knew her work would be influential.

Sylvia Plath’s works were shown through her perspective, but the wording allowed the reader to make further interpretations. Plath gives many different writing styles to add more of a dramatic effect to her works. For example, “Parliament Hill Fields” was written after she had experienced a miscarriage in February 1961 and “shows her ability to invest external landscape with the urgency of psychic disturbance. In her introduction to this poem, Plath's comments suggest that the poem's narrator is a third party, not herself. This is revealing: whilst considered a leading 'confessional' poet, Plath often uses dramatic monologue, as in her famous poem “The Applicant”. In this devastating satire on conventional marriage, she uses the sales-speak of modern commerce to expose society's dehumanizing expectations. Both poems show Plath's skill in manipulating the sound of language” (The Poetry Archive). Her writing gives the readers a different perspective so the reader could feel the vivid emotions through the words. Sylvia Plath was best known for the genre of confessional poetry, using the first person “I”. Using the first person and her own personal traumas, gave the reader insight into Plath’s struggles. In most of her poems, she hides the personal trauma under literary devices and symbolic figures, giving the reader more time to conduct the overall meaning.

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In Sylvia Plath’s book of poems, “Winter Trees”, she puts together many heartfelt works and poems that are in the form of a short story. These collections of poems were published by her husband, after the taking of her own life. Sylvia Plath’s poems are usually free verse and or have similar rhyming styles. Her poems are in the form of stanzas, with a variation of sentences. In “Winter Trees” she includes a play she wrote before her death. This play consisted of three London Women and their experiences of pregnancy and childbirth. The play was written through Sylvia Plath’s own experiences and hardships, using different characters to make it more of a story. The women express their thoughts and feelings in the play, giving the readers a bigger understanding of what they are going through and how Sylvia Plath contributed.

Plath writes, “And what if two lives leaked between my thighs?/ I have seen the white clean chamber with its instruments./ It’s a place of shrieks. It is not happy./…. I should have murdered this, that murdered me” (Plath 52). Plath displays that one of the women has hatred towards childbirth. Being hospitalized and having another human life to take care of was a very detrimental thought. Sylvia Plath shows her own views on her experience through the other women, as having children was a dread. Through the voice of the third woman, Sylvia Plath showcases how the process of childbirth was draining and took her focus away from her mental health. For instance, in “Winter Trees” continuing the play Plath writes, “There are the clothes of a fat woman I do not know./ There is my comb and brush. There is an emptiness./ I am so vulnerable suddenly./ I am wounded walking out of the hospital./ I am a wound that they are letting go./ I leave my health behind…”(Plath 59). The third woman speaks on her experience of childbirth and how she is now empty, metaphorically speaking. She feels emptiness and is an open wound. Her open wound symbolizes her vulnerability and mental health. This quote represents the theme of evil, as Sylvia Plath expresses the inner demons present within the play and the woman. Towards the end of the play, the women begin to realize their role in life, being a wife and mothers. Sylvia Plath brings in her personal experiences and how she felt being a woman and how her role contributed to her downfall. Lastly, the voices contribute and say “The streets may turn to paper suddenly, but I recover/ From the long fall, and find myself in bed,/ Safe on the mattress, hands braced, as for a fall./ I find myself again. I am no shadow/ Though there is a shadow starting from my feet. I am a wife./ The city waits and aches. The little grasses/ Crack through stone, and they are green with life” (Plath 64). The women are done with the process of childbirth and now home, out of the maternity ward. Now they are back to their role of a wife. The last sentence, “...and they are green with life” gives the last part a more positive outlook on life. During the childbirth process the themes of evil and death were present, and as the play came to an end the theme of life overshadowed the idea of death.

Sylvia Plath’s contribution to confessional poetry gave women a voice and awareness of the mental illness. Through her works, Plath concluded the ideas of mental illness around her private experiences involving feelings of emptiness, hardships, and her inner demons. This is present through all of her works, specifically through “Winter Trees”, “Ariel”, and “Parliament Hill Fields”. Her poems being published after her death by her husband provides more emphasis on the ideas she was producing in her works. Her poems also surround the idea of dysfunctional marriage and relationships. The style of her writings and the use of literary elements influenced the genre of confessional poetry. Whereas modern poets and authors such as Ellen Hopkins, follow the genre of confessionalism and the style of writing but writes using characters and plot.

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