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Sylvia Plath And The Bell Jar

1491 words - 6 pages

"The bell jar hung, suspended, a few feet above my head…” For most people, when the name Sylvia Plath comes to mind, the word “psychotic” is the word that follows; however, there was more to Plath than her demented works. Throughout her shortened life, Plath had a variety of titles bestowed upon her: daughter, sister, student, wife, mother, teacher, author, and poetess However, Sylvia Plath was a haunted soul, as she also had the labels of “manic depressive” and “bipolar.” Her constant struggles with her mental illnesses are evident in her writing, especially her semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar.
Aurelia Schober, Plath’s mother, was studying at Boston University when she fell in love with her professor that taught German and biology, Otto Plath, whom she would marry in January 1932. Later in that same year on October 27, Plath was born to the couple. Plath’s father passed away when she was only eight. (Academy of American Poets) From then on, Plath began publishing her poems. In everything she did, she strived towards being flawless; she had straight A’s, was a good daughter, and earned prestigious prizes (Gilson). Schober aided in pushing her daughter towards excellence and always made sure Plath knew how proud she was of her. In fact, Sylvia’s mother collected her daughter’s achievements and praised her highly for them (Liukkonen). By 1950, she had been given a scholarship to attend Smith College and had hundreds of publications, which she would add to substantially in the time she spent at Smith (Gilson).
Symptoms of severe depression began to plague Plath in her early years of college (Poetry Foundation). One of Plath’s short stories, “Sunday at the Mintons,” was published in 1952 in the magazine Mademoiselle while she was a college student. For the same magazine, she worked on the college editorial board in 1953 (Liukkonen). In a journal entry she made on June 20, 1958, she described this time of her life: “It is as if my life were magically run by two electric currents: joyous positive and despairing negative—whichever is running at the moment dominates my life, floods it." With her words, she painted a vibrant picture of how her manic depression made her feel. In Plath’s time, no medication existed to aide her mental health. Unable to cope with her ailment, Plath attempted suicide by swallowing sleeping pills at the age of nineteen; however, she withstood and was institutionalized. By fictionalizing her reality, Sylvia Plath was able to begin writing her novel, The Bell Jar, about this time in her life. Upon her recovery, Plath made a reappearance at Smith College to finish her schooling (Poetry Foundation). After Sylvia Plath graduated summa cum laude, she attended Newnham College on a Fulbright Fellowship in 1955. While there, she met the poet Ted Hughes, who she wedded a year later. Between the years of 1957 and 1958, Plath returned to the United States and taught English at her alma mater, Smith College (The Editors of...

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