On October 27, 1932, Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1932. Her father was a professor at Boston University and her mother was a student there. Sylvia’s father died when she was a child and this loss was said to have influenced her writing in later years. She was dedicated to writing, began keeping a journal as a child, and began submitting her poetry to magazines when she was in high school. Remarkably, Sylvia graduated summa cum laude from Smith College even though she had attempted suicide at least once and suffered from depression during her college years. Sylvia moved to England to further her studies and writing career. She married fellow poet Ted Hughes there in 1956 at the age of twenty-four. The couple had two children and later separated. Sylvia experienced an erratic publishing career. In 1963 she committed suicide by inhaling gas from her oven. Her work was recognized almost twenty years later when she posthumously won the Pulitzer Prize (Kirk 2004). Most of Sylvia’s poetry was published posthumously with the notable exceptions of The Colossus and Other Poems published in 1960 and The Bell Jar published in 1963. Sylvia’s other works have been gathered into collections and published over the years including Ariel (1965), Crossing the Water (1971), Winter Trees (1971), Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams (1977), The Collected Poems (1981), Selected Poems (1985), and The Magic Mirror (1989). The Bell Jar is the single most famous and most analyzed work by Sylvia. It is presumed autobiographical. The story is that of a young woman suffering from mental illness. She struggles through the growing pains that accompany many school age young women in transition. By the end of the rather sordid story, the young woman finally graduates from school. However, in fact she is graduating from a mental institution (Bloom 2009). Sylvia seems to be lamenting many of the choices she made when she was younger in verse from the novel she states (Bloom 2009):
Daddy, I have had to kill you. You died before I had time –
It appears that Sylvia is telling her dead father she intends to destroy his memory, or that she would have gladly killed him but he died before she got the chance. As she laments she was only ten years old when he died. She then explains that her suicide attempt at twenty was in large part due to the trauma she suffered at her father’s hands (Plath and Hughes 1981):
I was ten when they buried you. At twenty I tried to die
Sylvia’s father in fact died when she was eight but poetic license allowed her two extra years. She finally succeeded in dying at thirty years old. In the end, Sylvia was living in poverty and despair with her two young children in a cold London apartment.
Bloom, Harold. Sylvia Plath's the Bell Jar. New York, NY: Bloom's Literary Criticism, 2009. Print.Gill, Jo. The Cambridge Companion to Sylvia Plath. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Internet resource.Inness, Jeanne. The Bell Jar: Notes, Including Life and Background, Chronology of Plath, Introduction to the Novel, List of Characters, Critical Commentaries, Character Analyses, Critical Essays, Essay Questions, Select Bibliography, Additional Readings. Lincoln, Neb: Cliff's Notes, 1984. Internet resource.Kirk, Connie A. Sylvia Plath: A Biography. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2004. Print.Plath, Sylvia, and Carol A. Duffy. Sylvia Plath. London: Faber, 2012. Print.Plath, Sylvia, and Ted Hughes. The Collected Poems. New York: Harper & Row, 1981. Print.