June 29, 2013

Sylvia Plath

A 20th Century American poet, novelist and editor
Sylvia Plath

Full Name: Sylvia Plath
Pen name: Victoria Lucas
Birth: October 27, 1932
Death: February 11, 1963
Place of Birth: Boston, Massachusetts
Place of Death: London, England
Cause of death: Suicide
Buried at: St. Thomas' Churchyard, Heptonstall, West Yorkshire, England
Father: Otto Plath (1885–1940)
Mother: Aurelia Schober Plath (1906–1994)
Siblings: One younger brother: Warren Plath (1935– ?)
Marriage: June 16, 1956
Spouse: Ted Hughes (1930 –1998)
Children: One daughter: Frieda Hughes (1960–), and one son: Nicholas Hughes (1962–2009)
Education: Smith College, Cambridge University
Known for: her works which are marked for their profoundly concentrated personal imagery
Criticised for: her troubled life, reflected through her confessional style, which she implemented in her semi-autobiographical writings
Influences: William Blake (1757–1827), James Joyce (1882–1941), Virginia Woolf (1882–1941), J. D. Salinger (1919–2010), William Butler Yeats (1865–1939)
Influenced: Elizabeth Wurtzel (1967), K.J. Stevens (1973), Gary Forrester (1946), Antonella Gambotto-Burke (1965)


“Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one's head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace."
Sylvia Plath, "The Bell Jar"

Major Themes:

  • Self-destruction
  • Death
  • Alienation
  • Motherhood
  • Love and Sex
  • Patriarchy
  • Nature
  • Victimization

Notable Works:

The Colossus (1960)
Ariel (1965)
Crossing the Water (1971)
Winter Trees (1972)
The Collected Poems (1981)
The Bell Jar (1963)
Letters Home (1975, to and edited by her mother)
Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams (1977)
The Journals of Sylvia Plath (1982)
The Magic Mirror (1989, Plath's Smith College senior thesis)
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath (2000, edited by Karen V. Kukil)
Books for Young Readers
The Bed Book (1976)
The It-Doesn't-Matter-Suit (1996)
Collected Children's Stories (UK, 2001)
Mrs. Cherry's Kitchen (2001)

Did You Know?

Her father died as a result of complications from diabeteson November 5, 1940, a week and a half after Plath's eighth birthday

She made her first suicide attempt by taking sleeping peels when she was around 20 years old

She made her second suicide attempt at the age of 30 by gassing herself at her flat in London, which took away her life

Prior to killing herself, Plath ascertained about the safety of her children and she also left food and drinks for them

Many Plath supporters blame Hughes' adultery with Assia Wevill as the cause of Plath's pathetic demise

Like Plath, Hughes’ company in adultery Assia Wevill also eventually committed suicide by using a gas oven

The headstone of her  tomb bears the name “Sylvia Plath Hughes”

The name 'Hughes' in the headstone now appears in bronze lettering to prevent it from being removed (as many Plath supports chiselled the part several times in the past)

Her keen interest in writing led Plath to keep a journal from the age of 11 and she published her poems in regional magazines and newspapers

In 1982, Plath became the first individual to win a posthumous Pulitzer Prize

In early 1956, Plath met the English poet Ted Hughes at a party in Cambridge, UK and fell in love at first sight and got married four months later

Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes had an unstable marital life

Sylvia Plath’s first poetry collection The Colossus was published in 1960 in England

Ted Hughes edited much of Plath’s major works after her death, including the most notable Ariel (1965)

Plath’s only novel The Bell Jar (1963) was published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas

The true story of Sylvia Plath was the basis for the British biographical drama film Sylvia (2003)

Except Colossus most of her major works were published posthumously

In her poem Pursuit Plath used a panther to describe Ted Hughes

Her elegiac poem Daddy is written about her father

Her daughter Frieda Hughes is a poet and painter

Although Sylvia Plath left this world prematurely, she is still a much studied poet these days


 “Sylvia Plath”. Poets.org. 2013. Academy of American Poets. 25 June 2013
< http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/11>.

 “Sylvia Plath”. Biography. 2013. A+E Television Networks, LLC. 25 June 2013
< http://www.biography.com/people/sylvia-plath-9442550>.

Tanvir Shameem Tanvir Shameem is not the biggest fan of teaching, but he is doing his best to write on various topics of language and literature just to guide thousands of students and researchers across the globe. You can always find him experimenting with presentation, style and diction. He will contribute as long as time permits. You can find him on:


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