Sylvia Plath: poem theme


Sylvia Plath was the poet who falls in a confessional poet category because of her personal crucial, biographical facts throughout her work. The confessional poets speaks about their personal failure; for example, all the 60s poets like John Berryman, Anne Sexton, Robert Lowell and Theodore Roethke are confessional poets of English literature, one pf them was Sylvia Plath. Therefore, the confessional poets has all the matter including personal trauma, omission, fears and phobias. They actually talk about “I” the first person, they also think that the world always revolve around to their self pivot.

So, Sylvia Plath`s poem theme can be describe on the basis of her own personal trauma and the most crucial facts of her life like; the premature death of her father when she was just eight, the separation from her husband Ted Hughes who took the role of surrogate father and her suicidal attempts, there were multiple unsuccessful suicidal attempts by Sylvia Plath finally get success at the very young age of thirty. Hence the major theme of her poem is based on helpless life, personal rage and narcissism.

The suicidal theme of Sylvia Plath:

Sylvia Plath chose to write her personal breakdown in her poetry for instance; her first collection of poems The Colossus published in 1956, can be described as an apprentice poems because they seem docile, well behaved and missing contents like innovation and surprises. `The Colossus` show the talent of her but it is too self consciously thesaurus- oriented, that only spoken in highly individual voice, that brings out the death of her father that leaves only grief. Not only this, but much of her work is shaped on her father`s death. The Colossus is dilapidated as fallen statue of gigantic proportions, so Plath establishes a contrast between past and present downfall of her life throughout her poetic career.

Another Suicidal theme that we see in her work is `Daddy` a poem that relates to Electra myth, Plath evokes the myth to describe the relationship with her father. Throughout this journey, Plath deals with the influence of hereditary, a legacy that carries forward. Daddy though they storm and curse against one who has betrayed the persona could be uttered by one who cares, who has loved deeply and truly, can be hurt because her love has prove to be nothing. Such are the ambivalent feelings that Plath feels in Daddy and expresses her grief for her dead father.

In Lady Lazarus, a poem in which we found another suicidal thought of Plath, she wrote about her multiple suicidal attempts. Plath`s biography tells us that how she aggressively fascinated with the idea of dying. To show her aggression here, she evokes an Egyptian myth, in which a legendary Phoenix who periodically destroy herself but reborn from ashes. This shows that how she was starving for death time and being symbolically reborn. The scars, the pain, the intensity that Plath feels throughout her life put altogether in her poems.

Death is an immensely vivid aspects of Plath`s work both in metaphorical and literal representations. She felt like a victim in the male dominant society, a victim to the men in her life including her father, husband, and male from literary world. She expresses her sense of victimhood in The Colossus and Daddy, using powerful metaphors and comparison to limn a man who figured heavily in her psyche.

As Plath lived and worked in 1950- 1960 in England and America, hence she described the societies as very strict with gender norms. Her poem `Purdah` is based on female protagonist, in which a female tries to shake off the hegemonic centre pf male dominance. On the contrary, Plath uses her own personal experience but in the manner of poetic tradition. She makes use of myth but she breaks with the mythic tradition. She put all her emotions in her work. What Plath writes is not straight forward and uncomplicated verse but it has many dimension. There is an attempt to relate private experience to public experience though, she has presented her experience, injury and pain on larger context. This is also an event that relate to global significance.


Sylvia Plath was born on 27 October 1932 in Boston, USA, she was a novelist, short story writer and a poet. She was highly regarded for her confessional style of work. She started writing at the very young age. She has been categorized as confessional poets in the poetry world. Plath wrote her poetry to describe her own condition, worries and experience of her life`s pain extensively. The theme of all her poem are based on her own traumatic breakdown and suicide attempts. Death, victimization, patriarchy, the self, the body, and motherhood etc. are the theme of her poem. She put all her personal experience in her writing.

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