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Plath: A Pioneer For Feminism Essay

1658 words - 7 pages

“And we, too, had a relationship--/Tight wires between us,/Pegs too deep to uproot, and a mind like a ring/Sliding shut on some quick thing,/The constriction is killing me also” (“The Rabbit Catcher” l. 26-30). Sylvia Plath is widely regarded as one of the most groundbreaking poets of her era. As a writer, and more importantly, as a woman, Plath burst through countless barriers. She wrote about life, in it’s purest, most imperfect form. Delving into the world of depression, Plath described how being a daughter, wife and mother affected her feelings of unhappiness. This shed a new light on the formerly accepted-as-normal negatives to being a woman.
Plath’s arguably most famous piece of work was a collection of her poetry, called Ariel. While this anthology was published posthumously, the works had been organized and edited by Plath before her suicide in 1963. It is nearly impossible to read any piece of Plath’s poetry without taking into account prior knowledge of her life. Lightly put, her 31 years were tumultuous. When Ariel was first published, its effect was “one of shock mingled with admiration for the strange brilliance of the poetry” (Wagner par. 2). The underlying anger present in Plath’s pieces baffled readers. American literature was still young in comparison to that of England, or any European country, so very few poems had such emotion, and “. . . to find such feeling in poetry by a woman was especially surprising” (Wagner par. 2). It is clear Plath carried some resentment about genders and their roles.
When the subject is father-daughter relationships, the poetry in Ariel does not fare well. From a biographical standpoint, it is obvious as to why Plath had such powerful feelings toward a relationship of this type. Most little girls idolized their parents, and even if they did not, no lady would ever think to speak or write poorly about them. In “Daddy,” one of her more famous pieces, Plath does just that. It is evident from the title and the rhyme scheme of the piece, do/shoe/Achoo/you/du/two/Jew, that the narrator seems to have the voice of a young girl. Perhaps, she is eight years old, like Plath was when her father passed away. The narrator undoubtedly feels oppressed by her father, stating she has lived a life “barely daring to breathe or Achoo” (l. 5). Plath boldly decides to take this mentality a step further by having the narrator compare her father to a Nazi and herself to a Jew: “I have always been scared of you/. . . And your neat moustache/And your Aryan eye, bright blue.” (l. 41-45). “I began to talk like a Jew/I think I may well be a Jew.” (l. 34-35). Glyn Austen considers this metaphor in his critical essay “Life and Art: Context in Sylvia Plath’s Poetry” saying, “even as our hearts reach out to her broken heart we are disturbed and even appalled by her hyperbolic identification of herself as a holocaust-victim” (par. 9). While Plath may have had strong feelings, it is undoubtedly unladylike, perhaps even unlike...

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