In The Following Essay, I Will Examine The Development Of Plath's Poetry Through Analysis Of Major Themes And Imagery Found In Her Description Of Landscapes, Seascapes, And The Natural World.

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Sylvia Plath's Psychic LandscapesIn the following essay, I will examine the development of Plath's poetry through analysis of major themes and imagery found in her description of landscapes, seascapes, and the natural world.Following the lead of Ted Hughes, critics today tend to read Sylvia Plath's poetry as a unity. Individual poems are best read in the context of the whole oeuvre: motifs, themes and images link poems together and these linkages illuminate their meaning and heighten their power. It is certainly easy to see that through almost obsessive repetition some elements put their unforgettable mark on the poetry: themes such as the contradictory desires for life and death and the quests for selfhood and truth; images like those of color, with red, black and white dominating the palette; and symbols of haunting ambiguity, for example, the moon and the sea.But equally obvious is the striking development that Plath's work underwent in the course of her brief career as a professional poet. This is perhaps most readily seen in the prosody: from exerting her equilibristic skill at handling demanding verse forms, such as the terza rima and the villanelle, she broke free of the demands of such literary conventions and created a personal verse form which still retained some of the basic elements of her earlier 'academic' style. She turned the three-line stanza of the villanelle into a highly flexible medium. Freed from the prosodic strictness of poems like 'Medallion,' written in 1959, this verse form reappeared in poems composed in the last year of her life in a superbly liberated yet controlled form. Some of her finest and most personal poems are written in this medium, for example, 'Fever 103°,' 'Ariel,' 'Nick and the Candlestick,' 'Lady Lazarus,' 'Mary's Song,' and the late 'Sheep in Fog,' 'Child' and 'Contusion.'More important, though, is the development one can observe in Plath's handling of images and themes, of settings and scenes. My concern in this essay is Plath's use of landscapes as settings. There are indoor settings in her poetry, such as kitchens and bedrooms, hospitals and museums, but the outdoor ones are in overwhelming majority. Plath's use of landscapes and seascapes is indeed one of the most characteristic features of her poetry. They put their mark on a considerable part of the work and appear throughout her career, linked as they are to her experiences as a woman and a poet. The seascapes with their crucial relevance for themes like the daughter-father relationship, loss and death, deserve a special and thorough treatment of their own and will have to fall outside the scope of this essay.No reader can fail to note the many items of nature that Plath makes use of as setting and image. Three scholars have paid special attention to this aspect. In her pioneering work, The Poetry of Sylvia Plath: A Study of Themes (1972), Ingrid Melander includes analyses of poems set in different landscapes and seascapes that Plath knew;...

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