Syvia Plaths life story may be considered to be tragic due to the consumption of her mind by depression. “A girl calls and asks, ‘Does it hurt very much to die?’ ‘Well, sweetheart,’ I tell her, ‘yes, but it hurts a lot more to keep living,” says a character in a Chuck Palahnuik novel. Having experienced a troubled life and inferring a dark future one may assume that ending it all is perceived to be better than living it out. Sylvia Plath’s depression not only influenced her suicide, but had a major impact on her work life, and many people throughout the world. Sylvia’s poetry reflects the troubling experiences she had due to the pain and absence her father caused her, the suppression of women, and her personal involvement with depression.
Plath’s unstable relationship with her parents throughout her childhood portrayed the twisted themes all through her work . As a young women, Sylvia Plath lived under the control of her mother and a strict father with inflexible, high-handed attitudes. In the poem “Daddy” she speaks of how she never fully had an understanding for the person he was and condemns him for the emptiness he instilled in her. Young Sylvia almost felt as though she was a jailbird in her own home, strictly loose of the barest needs of society and happiness that is expected within childhood.
Developing under the authority of her father, known as a destructive experience for a child, left a permanent impact on her life as a whole. Without regard to her father, Plath was released from his death grip in 1940 when he died soon after the amputation of his leg due to gangrene.
After his death Sylvia suddenly experienced a feeling of deliverance, that of which she had been longing to undergo for eight years. This occurrence enabled Sylvia to expand on her gift of creativity and prosper in many ways, such as writing. As a result of their tempestuous relationship Sylvia was left with a feeling of betrayal and the idea that he committed suicide because of the fact that he could have prevented his death. Although she had her burst of exemption she returned back to feeling morbid, seeing that her sovereign of a father had left her for good. This morbid feeling was then reflected in her writing, “See, the darkness is leaking from the cracks. I cannot contain it. I cannot contain my life.” (Sylvia Plath). Her work had a definite style, the negative characteristics of the relationship she has with her father reflected in her work and lead her to her crippling depression.
During her life Path dealt with manic depression furthermore the suppression of women. Feminist fans of Sylvia seem to agree that her suicide is very credible “a repudiation of the expectations placed upon women in the early 1960’s” (Sylvia Plath, The Poetry Foundation).
Sylvia’s suicide was of course tragic and had an affect on the women of her time. The unjust expectations the men in her time had against women extended the gloom and sadness throughout her work and mental state, even possibly resulting in her death. After working as a guest editor in New York, which inspired many parts of her novel The Bell Jar, Plath “tried to kill herself by taking sleeping pills” (Sylvia Plath, Biography).
While working for this job, Plath acquired a sense of the true sexism that was sustained during her time. The circumstances men had placed women in at this time affected her so greatly she went as far as willing to kill herself to escape them furthermore, did. After leaving a note to her neighbor on Feburary 11th, 1963 she died at the age of 31, “commit[ing] suicide with her gas oven” (Sylvia Plath, Poets.org). Plath was a significantly affected by depression and her hopeless attitude towards life ended in her morbid death. In her era of time there was no effective medication for depression. Assuming Plath felt no sense of hope, she felt the need to escape her murky life.
Sylvia’s depression, growing up with her father, and the expectations held on women in the 60’s, are all portrayed in multiple poems throughout her writing career. In her poem “Daddy” Plath says she “[has] lived like a foot” (2) and ends the poem with the line “daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through” (80), in reference to her illiberal father.
The breakdown of her family put Plath through a great deal of stress. Plath was left on her own to take care of two small children after Paths husband, Ted Hughes, left her to be with his lover. Due to Hughes absence she began taking medications like sleeping pills to cope on a daily basis. Sylvias mother blames these medications for her daughters depression instead of suppressing her suicidal thoughts, especially because such medications can cause side effects that include an increase in suicidal thoughts. After Plath’s first suicide attempt was prevented, via overdose of sleeping pills, it’s easy to assume that she looked into her suicidal thoughts. Its reasonable to think that perhaps Plath felt as though this act might bring realization to her family in hopes that they’d get back together or simply out of nothing but to punish her husband for his careless actions. Based on the clues she left behind she had everything worked out as it should be, and if the gas hadn’t drugged the man working in her building downstairs there is little doubt she would have been saved.
Due to the fact that we will never know why Sylvia killed herself it’s necessary to consider her actions committed daily within her whole life. If we extend our perspective to consider not only her specific actions, but also what she had to say in her writings, we may be able to have a better understanding as to why she did it.
The sense of hatred she felt toward him and her tortuous life are more than apparent in this work. Her poem “Mirror” is told from the perspective of a mirror, in which she states that to a woman, “[the mirror] is important to her” (15), as one faces the mirror, “day after day, like a terrible fish” (18). This refers to the expectations held on women in the 60’s; men made women obsessive over how they look. Rather focusing on pleasing themselves; Plath uses her words to portray how society has made women focus primarily on pleasing a mirror instead. In her poem “Edge”, Plath says that a deceased woman “is perfected” (1) and that her body “wears a smile of accomplishment” (2). This poem blatantly explains Plath’s resilient battle with depression. Plath felt as though if her life were to end she would then become a perfect women (portraying the suppression of women) as well as let loose from the horrors of her tragic life. All of what she had been through, experienced, and aspired for tied into her poetry as a writer.
Although all of what she went through in life itself is far from average these tragic occurrences played a primary role in her worklife as an adult.