Sylvia Plath’s poetry is full of her deep doubts and fears which she reveals with startling honesty.Discuss this statement, supporting your answer with reference to both the themes and language found in the poetry of Sylvia Plath on your course.
I agree with the above statement. Plath's works have impacted the lives of many of her readers, leaving them with a new understanding of those on the brink of suicide and of those experiencing deep doubts and fears. Even though Plath is gone, her poetry continues to thrive, unveiling the legacy of a tortured artist through her startling honesty. (Clear introduction - clearly addressing the essay title, i.e. doubts and fears intertwined with honesty).
The poems that I think are filled with deep doubts and fears shocking the reader with Plath’s direct callous honesty are Morning Song, Child and Poppies in July. Other poems that are indeed dubious and appalling are The Arrival of the Bee Box and Elm. Although they don’t seem to be reflected directly from Plath’s life experiences, these poems still have an essence of ruthless verity. (Listing poems you are going to explore is always a good idea).
Morning Song is perhaps one of Plath’s most climatic experiences as a mother. The poem begins with Plath’s description of her daughter Frieda: Love set you going like a fat gold watch. The word fat may suggest the baby’s size making it difficult for the mother while giving birth. It also puts the emphasis on the gold watch. This could be a reflection of Plath’s perception of life and mortality (If you find yourself interpreting some parts of the poem in a way that is different to what you see in notes, you probably aren't wrong. An interesting take on metaphors will score some points with the examiner who is tired of reading the same thing over and over). The poet’s attitude towards Frieda’s new beginning is eccentric: instead of ‘living in the moment’ Plath expresses her deep doubts and fears by referring to mortality and being impartial: new statue. Plath’s startling honesty with regards to her own daughter is outrageous: what kind of a mother would see her own baby as something so sterile? We stand round blankly as walls puts emphasis on Plath’s fears as she is faced with new motherly responsibilities. (Note the generous references to the essay title in this paragraph. If there was only one thing you were to learn from being on this website, just remember the importance of directly addressing the exact question being asked).
Child is again primarily based on Plath’s fears and doubts of being a mother, an example for her child, though she is less callous and more heartbreaking. The opening line is the longest line:
The poem paints a hopeful picture of child and childhood, but it ends with a reference to a dark ceiling without a star and with an agitated reflection in the pool of childhood. It is how Plath sees herself, projecting her anxieties and sorrows on to the child. The child should only see things that are noble and dignified. The speaker reveals her feelings of doubt and fear: she loves her child, but seems helpless and unable to protect it from harm.
Your clear eye is one absolutely beautiful thing.
I want to fill it with colour and ducks,
The zoo of the new
Poppies in July was written by Plath while she was suffering due to Ted Hughes’s affair with Assia Wevill. (Nice little biography touch. Beware of overdoing the biographical detail and going off on a tangent.) Personally, I think this is the best poem written by Plath when it comes to capturing her suffering and feelings uncertainty and dismay. (Although this is not a personal response poem, adding some of your own opinion is good, as it projects the fact that you thought about this in depth). It shows the poet’s fear of losing her husband: Do you do no harm? The line Little bloody skirts shows instability and bitterness. Plath describes her suffering honestly: There are fumes that I cannot touch. She longs to die, or to have peace: If I could bleed, or sleep! as she is doubt of being capable of dealing with this anxiety. The ending of the poem expresses hopelessness: But colorless. Colorless.
The poem The Arrival of the Bee Box is again identified with feelings of anxiety and fear. The box is locked, it is dangerous, and yet it fascinates her: I can’t see what is in there. The speaker finds herself incapable of making a decision as to what to do with the box full of bees. Should she feed them? Is she truly their owner? Would they forget about her if she simply let them go? (These rhetorical questions are a nice tool to show just in how much doubt Plath really was.) Elm expressed feelings of uncertainty towards love. Although the speaker knows the bottom... with my great tap root she is questioning love: Are those faces of love, those pale irretrievables? She is honest when talking about love. Although she knows the bottom, she shows her doubts towards love: I am incapable of more knowledge. She doubts love and seems to think that being in love is futile: These are the isolate, slow faults That kill, that kill, that kill. I found this poem beautifully strange. The psychological states explored and described in the poem are captured through haunting and memorable imagery of the elm: I have suffered the atrocity of sunsets.
So yes: Sylvia Plath’s poetry is filled with doubts and fears. There are feelings of anxiety in the case of motherhood in Morning Song and Child; in the case of love in Poppies in July and Elm and in the case of Plath’s personal anguish in The Arrival of the Bee Box. There is a sense of honesty in all of her poems. I loved studying Plath’s queer, yet beautiful, haunting poetry, as I have identified my own teenage stress with her feelings of uncertainty. (There is a very clear cut conclusion: full marks for structure. No waffle, reference to the essay title, a summarising list of poems and some main points, reiterating what was said in the intro and resonating with it.)
Overall, it is a very good essay. To make it even better I suggest adding another paragraph: Finisterre would be a good one (lots of fears and doubts) or Black Rook in Rainy Weather, as currently it is a little on the short side and missing some of the great examples from those poems.
What makes this essay so impressive?
- Good essay structure
- Not vague, answers the question asked with quotations and examples
- Good vocabulary and sentence structure
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