Similar to many
authors of the twentieth century, Sylvia Plath was largely influenced by her
own life experiences. Her poems are often labeled as confessional poems and are
sometimes told by a first-person speaker.
Because Plath was born in the 1930s, she was writing poems in a Post Modern
society and was heavily influenced by elements of postmodernism. This included
themes of contradiction, complexity, and ambiguity, as well as a reflection on
the fragmentation of life and criticism of the state of society. Plath also
focused on the oppression of certain societal groups, especially women and
their conventional place and role in the modern world. Post-Modern art was also known for criticizing traditional concepts
of history. Plath utilized that view in two of her famous poems, “Daddy”, and
“Lady Lazarus”, in which she provided interpretations of the Holocaust and
World War II.
above, Plath famously alluded to many traumatic or significant events that
occurred in her life, including the death and absence of her father, her
suicide attempts, and her general depression. Although some of her works are
more autobiographical than others (“Tulips” describes an experience in a
hospital following surgery, “Morning Song” alludes to the cry of one of her children
during the night) Plath attempted to incorporate ambiguity into most of her
poems so that they could be interpreted as they related to the reader and
applied to their own experiences.
Plath’s use of
ambiguity in her poems demonstrates her connection to romantic poetry. In
accordance with romanticism, she also utilized nature and animals as sources of
imagery in many of her poems as she felt that they reflected the human psyche.
However, her poems also often displayed modernist characteristics, such as
allusions to historical events that required more research or background
information on the subject to be fully understood. Plath was a strong supporter
of the feminist movement and displayed her support through many of her poems
and even her novel, “The Bell Jar”. Throughout her life, Plath progressed as a
writer stylistically, moving from the use of the ambiguous (present in “Black
Rook in Rainy Weather”), like her mentor Robert Lowell, to a style majorly
influenced by modernist poetry and more confessional in nature (“Lady
Lazarus”). Her works will always be viewed as timeless for her ingenious use of
fragmentation, enjambment, diction, and complex structure in the development of
themes in her poems.