AD's English Literature : Analyzing Sylvia Plath’s Poems: Combination of Vision, Nightmare, Confession and Subjectivity

Analyzing Sylvia Plath’s Poems: Combination of Vision, Nightmare, Confession and Subjectivity


Sylvia Plath wrote to her mother in a letter: “I am up about five, in my study with coffee, writing like mad—have managed a poem a day before breakfast… Terrific stuff, as if domesticity had choked me.”
Sylvia Plath, noted for her intensely personal and brutally honest poems, was a phenomenon, a meteor that appeared suddenly on the literary horizon, dazzled and disappeared before the world could properly have a glimpse of her. Plath’s work has grown in influence and popularity since her suicide at age 30. She is widely regarded as one the first feminist poets and an icon of the women’s movement. Read More Poetry Germairie Greer claimed that Sylvia Plath was the most ‘arrogantly feminine” poetess whoever wrote. David Holbrook adds, “A phenomenological analyses suggests that while knowing well outwardly that she was a woman, Sylvia Plath could scarcely find within herself anything that was feminine at all. Read More Criticism She is, perhaps, the most masculine poetess who aver wrote, yet, since, masculinity requires the inclusion of the anima, she is not that either: Read More Poetry she is sadly pseudo-male, like many of her cultists.” She was a heroine of women’s literary movement. For all her creative effort, she could not care herself. She idolized suicide and infanticide in ‘Edge’. It was written only two weeks before she committed suicide. She also idolized the Zany idolization of suicidal tendencies in The Bell Jar, a strongly autobiographical novel. The book is a first-person account of a young woman’s mental breakdown and suicide attempt, closely mirroring Plath’s own experiences.  She believed that death could be a pathway to rebirth, so that her suicide was a schizoid suicide.
Sylvia Plath belonged to the world wherein contemporary art was and is, moving towards nihilism and abandonment to hate. For all her harrowing and courageous record of suffering, Sylvia Plath died in the end because she could not sustain confidence in her true potentialities which could her. Read More Poetry In the end she is left with only one possible identity “she- who-commits-suicide”. This is the mental state, in general, o the western Society: “humanness is ebbing on account of the institutional depersonalization.” Sylvia Plath is the symptom and consequence of the prevalent epidemic in Schizoid humanity.
Image: Wiki Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath was not schizophrenic.  Her utterance is often extraordinarily clear. But her condition was schizoid. There is a history past. Her father died when Plath was eight years old that profoundly affected her later life, marriage, and poetry. Schizophrenia is “a disorder consisting of a double failure in areas that might loosely be called meaning and relation.” Read More Criticism It is a type of mental disorder marked by lack of association between the intellectual processes and actions. Read More Poetry The schizoid individual lives in a private hell, between tear of extinction through loss of relationship and the menace of annihilation by dangerous relationship; out of this emerges the desperation of the suicidal impulse to escape both dangers. Schizoid persons have a dream of being turned from a live person into a dead thing into a stone, into a robot, an automaton without personal autonomy of action, an ‘it’ without subjectivity. While still in college, Plath suffered a nervous breakdown and tried to commit suicide. She spent six months in a private hospital, where she received electroconvulsive therapy. This treatment became a recurrent image in her later writing.
Sylvia Plath’s poems are a combination of vision and nightmare. In his/her efforts to escape this dilemma-ridden existence, the schizoid individual creates pretensions and dream is hopeful beyond all reason. As well as the darkest night the soul can impose on itself. Sylvia Plath often manages to combine both dreams and nightmares in her poems. Plath’s first book, The Colossus, was the only collection of her poetry published during her lifetime. In it she exhibited her meticulously crafted and self-analytical style. Read More Criticism The book’s opening poem, The Manor Garden, imagined the experience of the baby daughter she was carrying. The last, Poem for a Birthday, explored her college breakdown and suicide attempt. Read More Poetry In her journal, Plath described the Birthday poem as “an exercise begun, in grimness, turning into a fine, new thing: first of a series of madhouse poems.” Exploring the loss of identity in this lengthy poem, Plath writes of the experience of becoming an object acted upon by others rather than a person possessing free will.  In Getting There she writes ‘I am in agony/I cannot undo myself.” Lady Lazarus expresses the boast that she can commit suicide without damage, beyond all reason, and find the same purity. She expresses her violent urges in Lady Lazarus, Daddy, Edge and Medusa. In Lady Lazarus, she writes “I eat men like air.” Her experience of electroconvulsive therapy is referred to in several poems in The Colossus.  Poem for a Birthday contains the lines “Now they light me up like an electric bulb. / For weeks I can remember nothing at all.” The six-line poem The Hanging Man also refers to the experience. Here are its obsessive explorations of death and rebirth.
The fashionable acclaim for Daddy and Lady Lazarus is acclaim for the final, terrifying, paranoid fantasies and a sufferer, who knew that death was the last great experiment. Read More Criticism Sylvia Plath suffered a characteristic sense of existential insecurity in the world. She believed that death could be a pathway to rebirth, so that her suicide was a schizoid suicide. Sylvia Plath is the object of a fashionable cult, not least because of her suicide and her schizoid tendencies, and is also a heroine of women’s liberation movements. Read More Poetry Her rejection of certain kinds of femininity, her hatred of certain aspects of woman has been presented at certain poetry festivals as important human truths. For all her immense creative afford Sylvia Plath could not save herself. Sylvia Plath was deeply affected by the breakdown of her marriage: but there are as obviously destructive dynamics in herself that may well have contributed to that breakdown. As is evident in The Bell Jar the hatred of the mother image pervades Sylvia Plath’s poetry, mingled with dread, resentment, and rage.
Sylvia Plath’s husband, Ted Hughes, himself a great poet said, “It  is impossible that anyone could have been more in love with life or more capable of happiness than she was.” Read More Criticism In fact, During Sylvia Plath’s study at Cambridge University in England she met the British poet Ted Hughes, whom she married in 1956. After spending two years in the United States, where Plath wrote and taught literature at Smith, the couple moved back to England in 1959. Read More Poetry Plath gave birth to her first child, a daughter, in 1960. A son was born two years later.  Everything run so fine till 1962 she separated from Hughes.

This is vie Schizoid tragedy that such a person at the heart of being still felt dead, unreal, overcome with a sense of futility, and full of hate and nihilism. Schizoid suicide is a longing to return to the womb and be reborn later with a second chance to live. That was probably with Sylvia Plath. Her success in writing seemed to bring her no satisfaction, even when she was young. In her work she seems confused at time about what satisfaction she could be obtaining and how she should relate means to ends. Read More Poetry Throughout her work one finds a continued theme of being deprived by those who she feels, have given her stones instead of bread and milk. In the two months that followed her husband’s departure, Plath wrote brilliant poems of anguished self-expression, including Daddy, Lady Lazarus, Ariel, The Bee Meeting,   Stings, and Medusa.   Read More Criticism Daddy is a particularly strong and violent poem, containing lines such as “Daddy, I have had to kill you. / You died before I had time—”.
The Bee poems of Sylvia Plath represent the sanest of her poems. Most of her later poems are about the unleashing of power, or tapping of roots. It is a manifestation of a failure. Sylvia Plath’s attitude to sexuality often belongs very clearly to the age of a pornography poison itself a schizoid and even psychotic manifestation. Read More Poetry The psychotic delusion is that what are necessary are the destruction of an old cell, and the rebirth of a new. In truth she won’t be there to know herself. In Face Lift, the protagonist becomes new born. By contrast, another poem about the same schizoid division in her takes a sane direction.
The Hughes feels that Sylvia Plath’s muse was often virtually death himself.  In the end, the destructive energies triumph, her poems release self-destructive thoughts of increasing magnitude. Read More Criticism In the end intention and act are inseparable as the poems fabricate a deed and justify it. Sylvia Plath’s is still an enigma. A comprehensive study of on her life and work is required to fully comprehend her mind and art.
Note: A major film about Plath’s life, Sylvia, was released in 2003. A heavily edited version of her personal writing, The Journals of Sylvia Plath (1982), offered revealing insights and reflection on her life and work. The complete edition of her surviving journals—The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962—were published for the first time in 2000. Hughes destroyed Plath’s final diary to protect their children from reading it, and another diary from late in her life has been lost. 
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