Sylvia Plath was a troubled soul, who ended her own life at a young age. Born in Boston, Massachusetts on October 27, 1932, she began writing in journals when she still quite small. She was married to fellow poet, Ted Hughes. When the two separated, because Hughes found another woman, Plath fell into a serious depression. It was during that year she wrote her iconic and only novel, “The Bell Jar” and committed suicide on February 11, 1963.
Her father, Otto Plath, was a professor of German and Biology. He had a particular interest in working with bees. He went on to marry one of his students, Aurelia Schober, in January of 1932. The couple had a daughter, Sylvia, later that year. He was very strict with his daughter, assuming a very authoritative role within the family. He had diabetes, which caused complications that ended his life when Sylvia was only eight years old.
Plath began writing shortly after her father’s death. Starting at age eleven she kept a journal. She also submitted her poetry to local and regional newspapers and magazines for publication. After she graduated high school in 1950, she published her first national article in the Christian Science Monitor. She was suffering depression while she was a student at Smith College. Plath was a devoted student who managed to graduate summa cum laude in 1955, even after a failed suicide attempt in 1953. After her graduation, she received the Fulbright Scholarship, which took her to England.
While in Cambridge, she met Ted Hughes in early 1956. The happy couple were married in June of that same year. In the effort to have her works published, she moved back to the United States. “Colossus”, her first collections of poems, was finally published in England in 1960, and in the US by 1962. Since she had achieved her goal, she moved back to England with her husband, and they had two children together, one daughter and a son.
Shortly after the birth of her youngest child, Plath’s husband left her to be with his new girlfriend, Assia Gutmann Wevill. The news that her husband wanted a divorce pushed Plath even deeper into the depression that seemed to follow her throughout her life. It was during that long winter she wrote some of her best works. The poetry she wrote was compiled into her second collection named “Ariel”. She also wrote her only novel, a semi-autobiographical account of her downward spiral into mental illness. The book was originally published using the pseudonym Victoria Lucas, and wasn’t published using Sylvia Plath’s name until 1967. One month after the first publication, Plat committed suicide using her gas stove.
The main character, Esther, struggles to find out who she really is instead of what others want her to be. The men in Esther’s life are all emotionally or physically oppressive towards her, making her feel trapped in her own world. “The Bell Jar” has been used as inspiration for many television and films. One example is in the movie “Heathers”, which starred Christian Slater and Winona Ryder. After seeing a copy of the book, JD decides he is going to make Heather’s death look like a suicide. The novel itself was turned into a movie of the same title in 1979. While it has been translated into twelve languages, “The Bell Jar” has sold several million copies around the world. Sylvia Plath posthumously won the Pulitzer Prize in 1982.