Sylvia Plath Feminist Criticism

This essay sample was donated by a student to help the academic community. Papers provided by EduBirdie writers usually outdo students' samples.

Cite this essay cite-image

Sylvia Plath was widely regarded as “one of the most celebrated and controversial post-war (‘feminists’)” writing in English” [Oates] in the twentieth century. In her ‘Ariel’ collection, Plath explores the gender inequality and expectations that plagued society at that time, and arguably today. Through her poetry, Plath criticises the social norms and values that socially conditioned both men and women to behave in the ‘appropriate’ way. In doing this, she reveals her own personal struggle with existential misery as well as bold metaphors for death and sexuality. Having written a complex biographical body of work, Plath has often been seen as a confessional poet. Her deeply personal lamentations often achieve universality through mythic allusion, presented in pragmatic symbolism.

Viewed as a cathartic response to her divided personae as an artist, mother, daughter and wife, and the inescapable social binding of these roles to herself, Plath’s poems have been praised by feminist critics for shedding light on the personal and professional struggles that women faced at the time. This assigning of gender roles has been present throughout history and has, in recent years, sparked outrage and released pent up frustration on a larger scale than ever before due to the way in which men and, particularly, women have been “culturally constructed”. These factors, along with her suicide, has made Plath one of the world’s most eminent figures, to actively subvert gender stereotypes, in the literary world – resulting in her being recognised as an iconic martyr in the struggle against patriarchy.

Save your time!
We can take care of your essay
  • Proper editing and formatting
  • Free revision, title page, and bibliography
  • Flexible prices and money-back guarantee
Place Order

Due to the age-old social, and hence cultural, construction of roles assigned to the ‘dominant’ men and ‘subservient’ women, :::: the subtlety or extremity, gender inequality was, and still is prevalent. Various forms of media - such as the “negative stereotyping of women in literature” [Bertens and Millett] - played a significant role in this. A prime example would be the behaviour of male characters towards or regarding the female characters in the works of Henry Miller, who was heralded by many critics for his “daring and liberating depictions of erotic relations” [Bertens]. As Kate Millet, and other feminist critics, observed, those praised male protagonists were in fact “denigrating, exploitative and repressive in their relations with women”. This reflects the way in which Sylvia Plath felt and lived - enduring lifelong torment, by the oppressive men she kept closest - until claiming her own life. One of these men was her father, who died when she was eight. His abrupt death played a part in Plath perpetual sense of abandonment.

In ‘Daddy’, Plath describes her father to have bitten her “pretty red heart in two”. It could be suggested that the colour ‘red’ is symbolic of life, this is contrasted by the subsequent repetition of the colour ‘black’ which only adds to the semantic field of death.

Make sure you submit a unique essay

Our writers will provide you with an essay sample written from scratch: any topic, any deadline, any instructions.

Cite this paper

Sylvia Plath Feminist Criticism. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 19, 2024, from
“Sylvia Plath Feminist Criticism.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
Sylvia Plath Feminist Criticism. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 19 Apr. 2024].
Sylvia Plath Feminist Criticism [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 15 [cited 2024 Apr 19]. Available from:

Join our 150k of happy users

  • Get original paper written according to your instructions
  • Save time for what matters most
Place an order

Fair Use Policy

EduBirdie considers academic integrity to be the essential part of the learning process and does not support any violation of the academic standards. Should you have any questions regarding our Fair Use Policy or become aware of any violations, please do not hesitate to contact us via

Check it out!
search Stuck on your essay?

We are here 24/7 to write your paper in as fast as 3 hours.