How Does Plath’s Poetry Reflect Her Struggles With Despair And Mental Illness?

1121 words - 4 pages

'Plath's poetry poignantly reflects her struggles with despair and mental illness'.Sylvia Plath's poem 'Blackberrying' was written in 1960 whilst she and Ted Hughes lived in Devon. Key themes of anguish and various attributes of mental illness are recurrent throughout the poem, resulting in a tone of misery and hopelessness; as the poem progresses it gets increasingly negative which may embody the speaker's mindset at the time. Infidelity was central in Plath's marriage and a plea is delivered for the blackberries to 'love me', possibly reflecting the lack of acknowledgment she may have felt, in a foreign country with a disloyal husband. The act of her going 'Blackberrying' is something ironic - a childish pastime to collect sweet fruit is soiled by dark imagery and links to death and depression (perhaps implying a confused outlook - how are such innocent things turning so sour?). The speaker of this poem could be Plath's way of expressing how she felt.Plath herself was immensely depressed during her life and her declining mental health is evident in 'Blackberrying'. The speaker states that the sea is 'somewhere' at the end of the road, seemingly as if she is wandering with no real intentions of reaching it (perhaps portraying a hopeless attitude) as if she sees no point in anything anymore. She also voices how singled out she feels - 'a sudden wind funnels at me' and 'in my face' - displaying how she may believe the world is working against her.Attempting once in 1950 and then succeeding in 1963, suicide was majorly associated with Plath and comes across in her writing. 'Ebon', 'choughs' and 'black' are associated with death, linking to suicide and possibly alluding to the speaker's mounting suicidal wishes. This can also be said when she links 'choughs' to 'bits of burnt paper'; if something is burnt it has been destroyed and may be a link to death, possibly implying that the speaker is so depressed that she sees death everywhere - her want of dying is engulfing all. 'Choughs' are also animate whereas 'paper' is inanimate, maybe projecting her wishes of turning life to death (e.g. suicide - her want of death is subtly creeping into her everyday). This can be linked to Plath's poem, 'Tulips', where she wishes to be 'utterly empty'. It may be argued that by 'empty', she wishes to be empty of any feeling or even empty of life. Her poem 'Lady Lazarus' is itself all about suicide and how she has 'done it again', comparing death to 'art' and therefore implying the light of beauty she views it in. The positivity she assigns dying may demonstrate her yearning for it.The speaker's words are ones of loneliness, establishing the solitude weighing on her shoulders. Plath's move to Devon was to accommodate Hughes, more than anything, leaving Plath with no friends and a husband she disliked (in her poem 'Daddy' she refers to Hughes as a 'vampire'). She personifies the 'blackberries', referring to them as a 'they' and giving them the ability to forge a...

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