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Who is Sylvia Plath?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 23, 2024
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Sylvia Plath was an American poet and author. She suffered from depression and eventually committed suicide. Plath is remembered for her intense poems such as "Daddy and Mirror," but is also remembered for her powerful novel, The Bell Jar.

The Bell Jar, originally published in 1963, was Sylvia Plath's only published novel and is considered an American classic. The Bell Jar is, at least partly, autobiographical and Plath delves into the depression and angst of her own adolescence through the character of Esther. Esther wins a contest to be a guest editor for a big New York magazine and after that, Esther decides she must become a writer.

Through her focus on pursuing the career of her dreams, Esther questions, and sometimes does not question, her own views of morality and her own behavior. The Bell Jar takes a dark, honest look at a talented youth who is trying to understand who she is. Through the character of Esther, Plath studies society's responses to ambition in women as opposed to ambition in men.

Sylvia Plath was born 27 October 1932 to hardworking parents. Plath graduated high school with straight As. She attended college on a scholarship and won another scholarship to Cambridge, England to study poetry. While there, she met and married Ted Hughes, another poet. Sylvia and Ted were married in 1956 and had a child born in 1960 and another child born in 1962.

Plath followed her husband's lead and left academia to be a freelance writer. She faced immense pressure to earn enough income from writing, especially while trying to raise two small children. When Plath found out her husband was cheating on her, it added to her depression and growing sense of panic.

Plath had been self-mutilating her legs by cutting herself and had experienced significant weight loss and insomnia. She did seek help from a psychiatrist, and it was reported that she confided that she had tried to take her own life when she had been in her early twenties. As the hospital beds were full at the time, the psychiatrist monitored her on an outpatient basis. Plath committed suicide at the age of 31 by putting her head in her own gas oven, on 11 February 1963.

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Discussion Comments
By anon5204 — On Nov 16, 2007

why wasn't she given some type of medication to get her mind on track?

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