Sylvia Plath: Deep, Dark, Disturbed

Common Themes

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Sylvia Plath’s Poetry

Literary Correlations Throughout Her Works


            Sylvia Plath’s poetry exemplifies her world, through her eyes, without any apologies or excuses. Her works run lines parallel with her life in itself, the ups and downs, daily inner battles and triumphs. The themes of her poems are herself, her thoughts, feelings, and experiences. She consistently uses imagery to paint a picture of her despair. Plath is an expert at personification and rhythm. Her poetry flows when it needs to, and is chaotic when the subject matter is chaotic. She uses literary elements effortlessly to give the reader a little piece of herself.

Plath's first publication "The Colossus"

In regards to Sylvia Plath’s poetry it is very apparent that from an early age she enjoyed writing.  Almost all of her works are pertaining to her life and the struggles she went through, even from the beginning with the loss of her father at an early age.  As her life unraveled after the death of her father, marriage to Ted Hughes, and children.  You can see the ups and downs in her personality come across in her writing. She has written some very intense poems with subjects in relation to death.  In the poem “Edge” written February 5th 1963, a week before her death, Sylvia is predicting her own death.  She also writes about themes pertaining to depression, “Cut” a poem about self-mutilation and disfigurement.  As well as family, “Ballons” “Daddy” and “Morning Song” are poems written about her children and the emotions she went through during the time of their birth and death of her father.  “The Moon and The Yew Tree” relates to her mother.  Dysfunctional relationships were also discussed in her poetry, “The Thin People” a poem explaining her thoughts during the marriage to her husband Ted Hughes.  Self loathing, “Tulips” a poem about miscarriages, motherhood and the emotions felt during those times in her life.  Another theme I found was sadness, “Mystic” explaining Sylvia’s curiosity to death and handling her bi-polar mood swings.  The list goes on and on and with over 230 poems written it’s amazing how the poems themes tell Plath’s life story.  Plath is a poet that challenged your comfort level.  Writing about her emotions, mental state, and suicide; things that not many would talk about.  Sylvia Plath's poetry displayed darkness but honesty in her own words.  Black humor is one of the main characteristics in her poetry but that is what makes her so unique   Plath's poems also focus on the themes of women's creativity and insanity, with all the pressures on her to conform as a good wife, mother, middle-class woman, and poet.  Her writing took on a new direction of confessional poetry which orientated a new art form.



Sylvia refers to poppies in a few of her poems



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"The Bell Jar"- a fictional novel
Well, not really fictional---The plot parallels Plath's life

    Sylvia uses her poetry as a venue to express herself and her current situations so it’s no surprise that her poems gave the impression to be self autobiographical. They are difficult to interpret but once you dig deeper into her life and what she went through as a child and as a student you begin to see common themes that appear in her literary works. Sylvia’s life was bittersweet and she used a lot of imagery and nature based personification in her poetry to represent growth and or change and how she felt about the world around her. She also uses certain colors frequently like red and blue. Red is seen as a color of passion or a particular life force and blue can take on the emotion of someone being cold/mean or even sad/hopeless.  Sylvia suffered from insomnia so she refers to poppies  which is an opiate derived from the poppy flower because they are used as a sedative for that particular restless syndrome.


Plath's final collection of poems edited by Ted Hughes after her death

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