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Sylvia Plath’s Poetry Is Dark and Disturbing

From studying the unique poetry of Plath, I found it intense, deeply personal and somewhat disturbing as she wrote about the horrors of depression with ruthless honesty.Her poetry is personal in that she talks about a taboo subject that wasn’t acknowledged during her lifetime and in a way it made her poems brilliantly intense.This can be seen most clearly in ‘Child’, ‘Elm’, ‘Poppies in July’ and also ‘Mirror’.

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‘Elm’s’ tone is insanely intense, dark and plain miserable and this makes the reader feel immensely disturbed.

It is clear from reading Plath’s work that she was in a dark hole, willing to escape. ‘Elm’ finished with the disturbing line “That kill, that kill, that kill”. We can see through her callous honesty and the unsettling atmosphere that she is tormented when she says “Till your head is a stone, your pillow a little turf”. Here, she is using an image of a grave and this sense of mortality is extremely personal, many poets wouldn’t write about such agitated thoughts. Her startling honesty is seen when she says “I am terrified by this dark thing”.

Plath is afraid, she is desperate and she is reaching out to her readers, begging for help. Her use of words in ‘Elm’ is also interesting. “Faults” could be emotional and/or physical and this shows the psychological states explored throughout Sylvia Plath’s work. “Malignity” symbolizes evil and the intensity of how disturbed her life was. Another poem that describes the intense and disturbing life of Plath in a deeply disturbing and personal way is ‘Poppies in July’.

This poem was written just after the break-up of the marriage to the love of her life Ted Hughes. In the unsettled atmosphere, it is evident that Plath is permeated with heartbreak and depression. Her anger is displayed through the disturbing use of the colour red, also symbolising danger. Poppies are usually a magnificent image of happiness and nature, but in Plath’s poem we can see through her dubious and appalling honesty that even the nice things in life are making her angry and upset, she can get no happiness from anything anymore. Colourless”… I feel an intense sadness for Plath as I read this poem because what she is aching for is help a human hand. She is looking for escape, oblivion, relief or neutrality, she can see no life worth living anymore and this makes ‘Poppies in July’ even more disturbing. Plath’s eccentric, queer and haunting writing is also seen in ‘Child’. This poem is very personal and although it is primarily a happy poem about her child there is an intense underlying sadness and emptiness. This poem is not angry, just negative, heartbreaking and regretful. Should” (the full quote would be better here) implies she wishes she was able to give her children something better, she is disturbingly sorry for not being able to give them everything they want and need. In this personal poem it is evident she loves her child very much and this is what makes it even more haunting and disturbing because she is so unstable and in a state of self-destruction “Your eye is the one absolutely beautiful thing”. We saw such anguish and hopelessness at the end of ‘Child’ when she says “This dark ceiling without a star”.

I personally found this heartbreaking as it is so obvious how much she loves her child, but she knows that she is nearing the end; she can’t see any light in her life even though as a reader it is obvious that the light could have been her children. Therefore, I found ‘Child’ a disturbing and intense poem to study. Another poem by Plath that I found to be personal on an intense and disturbing way was ‘Mirror’. It is clear as Plath looks into the mirror that she is unhappy, watching her age. A mirror never lies, but Plath cannot find solace in what she sees.

She fears herself as she sees her past and youth before her. “In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman rises towards her day after day, like a terrible fish. ” Plath also called candles and the moon, both symbols of love and light. “Liars”: they both cast a shadow. This disturbing, empty thought clearly shows her tormented mind and that love is futile. The final poem I am going to discuss that shows Plath’s emptiness is ‘Finisterre’. Again, it is unsettling, negative and quite violent and shows her tormented state.

I found this poem quite haunting and it shows the disturbing and intense time Plath was going through. “Whitened by the faces of the drowned”. The sea is also associated with death by Plath. “Souls rolled in the doom-noise of the sea”. Here, she is disconnected from the world, she also shows her disgust to organised religion when she says the Holy statue is ignoring the prayers of the people at her feet. With her callous honesty we can see that Plath can’t even find hope or rest in a God, she is well and truly alone. In conclusion, I found the poetry of Sylvia Plath to be intense, disturbing and personal.

I enjoyed her poetry as everybody has off days so her poems are easy to relate to in the sense that everyone feels empty and unknown sadness’s now and again. Knowing about her sad death really cements these feelings in the poems as we can see that unfortunately she gave up, she never found the hope or person she as looking for to save her from her tormented mind. Therefore, with her ruthless verity, it is obvious that Plath’s personal poems project her life in an intense and disturbing way because in the end, this magnificent, poignant poet could see nothing to live for.

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Sylvia Plath's Poetry Is Dark and Disturbing. (2017, Feb 18). Retrieved May 31, 2020, from