|Famous as||Poet, Novelist, and Writer|
|Born on||27 October 1932|
|Born in||Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts|
|Died on||11 February 1963|
|Works & Achievements||The Colossus and Other Poems, Ariel, Three Women: A Monologue for Three Voices, Crossing the Water, Winter Trees, The Collected Poems, The Bell Jar: A novel and The Bed Book.|
Sylvia Plath Childhood and Early Life
Sylvia Plath was born on October 27, 1932 in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts to Aurelia Schobert Plath (American of Austrian descent) and Otto Emile Plath (immigrant from Grabow, Germany). Her father was a biology and German professor at Boston University. He was also an author of a book based on bumblebees. There was a stark age difference between Plath’s parents, her mother being twenty one years younger to her father. The couple met when her mother was attaining Master’s Degree in teaching and opted one of his father’s course. The grandparents of Otto wanted him to become a Lutheran minister and for the same reason he separated from them.
Three years post the birth of young Plath, her brother Warren was born. Subsequently, her family shifted to Winthrop, Massachusetts in 1936. A large portion of Plath’s childhood was spent on Johnson Avenue. Her father, Otto Plath died on 5 November, 1940 attending amputation of foot because of untreated diabetes. Her father felt sick soon after his close friend expired of lung cancer. Otto used to compare the symptoms of his disease from that of his friend, and as a result was convinced that he too had lung cancer. This was why he did attain any treatment until the level of diabetes had increased greatly. He was buried in Winthrop Cemetery.
Post his father’s death in 1942, the family moved to 26 Elmwood Road, Wellesley, Massachusetts. Though brought up as a Unitarian Christian, she lost faith in God post her father’s death. For the rest of her life, Plath remained irresolute about her religion. During this time, she penned the poem “Electra on Azalea Path”, which arose by her frequent visits to her father’s grave. Living in Winthrop, she published her first poem at the age of eight in the Boston Herald's children's section. Apart from writing, Plath was pretty good at paintings and also grabbed “The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards” in 1947.
Sylvia Plath went to Smith College in 1950. When she was in the third year of her college, Plath was awarded a prestigious position as a guest editor at ‘Mademoiselle Magazine’. For the same, she stayed in New York City for a month. But her experience did not offer her exactly what she had expected. She started seeing herself and her life with a depressing point of view. Later, the incidents and events that happened to her during this time were penned in the form of a novel, “The Bell Jar”. Carrying a disheartened heart, she attempted first medically documented suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills.
After this unsuccessful suicide attempt, Plath was briefly sent to a mental institution where she was treated by electroconvulsive therapy. Plath’s stay at McLean Hospital and her Smith scholarship was paid for by Olive Higgins Prouty, a poet and a successful mental breakdown recovered patient. Plath made a good and quick recovery from the trauma and submitted her thesis “The Magic Mirror: A Study of the Double in Two of Dostoevsky’s Novels” in January, 1955. She graduated from the Smith College in June the same year with honors. Plath also grabbed a Fulbright scholarship to Newnham College, Cambridge. At Cambridge, she continued to write poetry enthusiastically. Her work was published in the student’s newspaper “Varsity”.
Post her marriage, Plath commenced teaching at the Smith College, her alma mater from September, 1957. But she found it difficult to manage teaching and her passion, writing, at the same time. In September, 1958, she and her husband moved to Boston. In Boston, she took a job in the psychiatric unit of Massachusetts General Hospital as a receptionist and in the evenings, she took seminars on creative writing by Robert Lowell. It was during this time that Plath and her husband met another great poet W. S. Merwin. Later, in 1959 the couple shifted to United Kingdom. The following year in the month of October, Plath published her first ever collection of poetry named “The Colossus”. In the August of 1961, she completed her semi-autobiographical novel, “The Bell Jar”. This novel was published under the pen name Victoria Lucas in January 1963. Since October 1962, Plath experienced a great creative boost in her and wrote most of the poems which are highly appreciated today. She wrote around 26 poems of her posthumous collection “Ariel” during this time only.
Sylvia Plath and poet Ted Hughes tied the nuptial knot on June 16, 1956 at St George the Martyr Holborn, in the London Borough of Camden. In the beginning of 1957, the couple shifted to United States. After their two years stay in the US, they moved to United Kingdom in late 1959. They both resided in London at 3 Chalcot Square, near the Primrose Hill area of Regent's Park. The couple was blessed with their first child; Frieda on 1 April 1960. In February 1962, Plath again conceived but her pregnancy ended up with a miscarriage. Soon after the miscarriage, the family shifted to the small town of North Tawton in Devon. It was here that her son Nicholas was born in January 1962.
Plath’s marriage was laden with difficulties, especially after Hughes affair with Assia Wevill. In June 1962, Plath met with a car accident but she described it as one of her suicide attempts. In the September of the same year, the couple separated. Plath shifted to London in December 1962 with her children. In London, she rented a flat at 23 Fitzroy Road. It was the same house where William Butler Yeats once lived. Plath was pleased by this fact and considered it a good omen. She, however, was circled with depression again but this time, she managed to finish the rest of her poetry collection that would be published post her death.
Dr. Horder, a close friend who resided near the Plath’s place, prescribed her some antidepressants a few days before she died. Dr. Horder knew that she was at risk being alone with children and visited her almost daily. He also made earnest efforts to convince her to get herself admitted in the hospital, but he failed and thus, arranged a live-in nurse. The nurse had to arrive at 9’o clock in the morning of February 11, 1963, when she reached she could not get into the house. But later she managed to enter the house with the help of a workman, Charles Langridge. Both of them discovered Plath dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in the kitchen. Her head was in the oven. It is assumed that around 4:30 am, Plath must have had put her head in the oven and turned the gas on. Since her death, controversies and questions started rising on her intentions of death. But finally inquiry suggested the death as a clear suicide. She was buried in Heptonstall churchyard.
Awards & Honors
· Grabbed “The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards” in 1947
· Attained the Fulbright scholarship to Newnham College, Cambridge
· selected for a Woodrow Wilson Scholarship
· Was felicitated with Glascock Prize in 1955
· Posthumously, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1982 for her work “The Collected Poems”
· The Colossus and Other Poems (1960)
· Ariel (1961–1965)
· Three Women: A Monologue for Three Voices (1968)
· Crossing the Water (1971)
· Winter Trees (1971)
· The Collected Poems (1981)
· Selected Poems (1985)
· Plath: Poems (1998)
· Sylvia Plath Reads, Harper Audio (2000) (Audio)
Prose & Novels
· The Bell Jar: A novel (1963), under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas"
· Letters Home: Correspondence 1950–1963 (1975)
· Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams: Short Stories, Prose, and Diary Excerpts (1977)
· The Journals of Sylvia Plath (1982)
· The Magic Mirror (published 1989), Plath's Smith College senior thesis
· The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, edited by Karen V. Kukil (2000)
· The Bed Book (1976)
· The It-Doesn't-Matter-Suit (1996)
· Collected Children's Stories (UK, 2001)
· Mrs. Cherry's Kitchen (2001)
1932: Sylvia Plath was born.
1936: Shifted to Winthrop, Massachusetts with family.
1940: Her first poem got published in the Boston Herald's children's section.Her father died the same year.
1942: The family moved to 26 Elmwood Road, Wellesley, Massachusetts
1947: Received “The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards” for her painting
1950: Attended Smith College.
1956: Got married to Ted Hughes.
1957: Started teaching at Smith College.
1958: Shifted to Boston with Ted Hughes.
1960: Plath’s collection of poetry, “The Colossus” got published. The same year her daughter Frieda was born.
1961: She completed her novel “The Bell Jar”.
1962: Son Nicholas was born. Also Ted and Plath got separated.
1963: “The Bell Jar” got published under the pen name Victoria Lucas; the same year Sylvia Plath committed suicide.