Sylvia Plath And The Bleak Lives Of Women Burnley College Sylvia Plath

1073 words - 5 pages

“In many ways Plath’s Ariel is a bleak exploration of the constrained lives of women in the mid-20th century.” How does a feminist reading of the collection support this view?
Throughout Plath’s collection Ariel she explores the constrained lives women lived during this time. The majority of women did not have a paid job and were expected to cook, clean and have children whilst their husbands went to work. Plath expresses her thoughts of feeling trapped and unhappy with her life throughout some of her poems in Ariel which I will further explore.
The constrained lives of women
From researching about Plath’s personal life she was not happy and often tried to commit suicide throughout tough times in her life. She expressed all of her thoughts through poetry and by doing this she shows in some of her poems how constrained and trapped she felt as a woman within her marriage. In the poem ‘Cut’ Plath explores quite a bleak day as she cuts her thumb. It is a bleak day to someone who has a busy work life but to Plath this is the most thrilling thing that has happened to her for quite some time. The abnormal reaction of ‘what a thrill’ and ‘the top quite gone’ of Plath explaining cutting her thumb shows how strangely detached her vocabulary is from the situation. She reacts so calmly and doesn’t even flinch turning it into the best moment of her day.
Suicide is often seen to be heroic
A feminist critic view of the poem ‘the female malady' suggests women’s literature discussing suicide is often read differently to a man’s view, such as Ernest Hemingway, his literature addressing suicide is often seen to be heroic. From ‘the female malady’ it is suggesting that even suicide seems to be gendered and women have to suffer such bad times to publish literature in a male dominated culture.
Making the personal political
In the poem ‘Daddy’ Plath uses holocaust imagery to compare her own personal issues to it. The poem talks about destruction and suggests her Dad treats her like he would ‘chuffing me off like a Jew’ exploring the confinement she feels within her relationship with her father alone. The disturbing language also relates to another poem ‘Lady Lazarus’ where Plath brings holocaust images into it, by discussing her skin as ‘bright as a Nazi lampshade’. These uncomfortable images are a literary metaphor for Plath to express how trapped she feels being a woman in society as she feels dominated by men around her. At the beginning of the poem ‘Daddy’, Plath shows how she was once a little girl frightened of her father as she metaphorically brings him back to life to tell him her thoughts on how he made her feel; ‘ barely daring to breathe or achoo’ shows how much her father has dominance over everything little thing Plath did. The critics view from Charlotte Crofts suggests the only way Plath could truly express herself was after her father had died as she compares lots of disturbing experiences the Jews went through with her own private life...


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