Womanhood in Sylvia Plath’s Poetry | Sylvia Plath’s Feminism

Womanhood in Sylvia Plath's Poetry | Sylvia Plath's Feminism

Sylvia Plath is one of those writers, who have preferred womanhood in every field of life even in her poetry, which is called Sylvia Plath’s feminism. She considers women equal to men. She has raised her voice against male domination. Sylvia always thinks that society is depriving women of their legal and ethical rights. Society should give women the same status as it gives to males. Being a woman, she considers it her responsibility to fight for women’s rights. She talks about the miseries of the females but does not provide any solution. Thus, she is not a reformer but a protester. She only raises questions.

Sylvia Plath is a woman, whose life was too hard; harder than any other poet. She was physically abused. Whether she was a victim of circumstances or not, is not important. The thing, which she considers important, is that male domination should be ended. Many of her poems deal with the problems and sufferings of women. The helplessness of women and womanhood remains a topic of discussion in Sylvia Plath’s poetry. Lots of poems have been written by her on the miseries of women which are famous due to Sylvia Plath’s feminism. Let’s discuss them one by one.

Womanhood in Sylvia Plath’s Poetry | Sylvia Plath’s Feminism

“Widow” reveals Womanhood in Sylvia Plath’s Poetry

“Widow” is a poem, in which she talks about grieves, sorrows and sufferings of a widow after the death of her husband. This poem is autobiographical yet at the same time universal. She has seen her mother experiencing pain just after the death of Otto Plath. Her father left his wife and daughter alone in the world; both were females and in that society, as per assertion of Sylvia Plath, it is difficult for females to spend even a single peaceful day because of male dominance. Thus, in this poem, she describes the troubles of every widow. She says that a widow struggles her whole life. The grief of her husband’s death is not temporary. It is permanent and can affect her whole life. Her children can also feel it.

The poet has not experienced this pain yet she has seen the struggle of her mother. Her mother’s mourning compelled her to compose this poem on the subject of a widow’s miseries. We know that it is not only the life of a widow, which becomes miserable but also the life of her children.  Furthermore, her past memories haunt her. She cannot forget the happy days of her life which she spent with her husband. She becomes helpless and has no other choice except to try every day to get rid of memories. In this way, a widow suffers twice. First, on the death of her husband and second, on struggling to forget memories. Thus, the miseries of a widow increase day by day which is definitely painful.

“Mushroom” also reveals Womanhood in Sylvia Plath’s Poetry

“Mushroom” is also another poem by Sylvia Plath, in which she talks about the resistance of a woman to get recognition in society. Compared to men, women have to work hard to get a good name and fame. She resembles a mushroom with woman. The mushroom is a metaphor for a woman and every line of the poem is not about mushrooms but about the struggles of women in the male-dominated society. Thus, this poem also suggests that Sylvia Plath forces her readers to take notice of woman’s freedom and equality.

“Ariel” also reveals Womanhood in Sylvia Plath’s Poetry

In another poem titled “Ariel”, she presented feminism. The title of the poem also suggests the same. Critics are of the view that “Ariel” means God’s lioness, who has extraordinary powers. Similarly, “Bell Jar” is another example of Sylvia Plath’s feminism. Another important poem that deals with women’s security is “The Bee Meeting”. In this poem, the poet feels insecure even in the company of “knowns”. In presence of so many people, she has no security. It is because she is a female. The word “naked” directly refers lack of confidence in herself because she is not male.

“Daddy” also reveals Womanhood in Sylvia Plath’s Poetry

The poem, “Daddy” is also about the sufferings of a woman. Her father and husband, none of them is loyal to her. She is struck between love and hatred towards her father and her husband. She cannot understand who is more responsible for her annihilation: her husband or her father.  It seems that she denotes hardships with many men, and her father was the initiator of these failed relationships.

An eminent critic writes:-

“Sylvia Plath had issues with the male race, in general throughout her life that becomes apparent throughout her writing; the ultimate question lies in asking whether she is a victim of circumstance or a spokeswoman against male domination. Many believe that yes, she was a victim of circumstance because of the particular type of men that she attracted/ came in contact with, and of course the early death of her father. Some believe that the lack of male influence is what led her to hold a ‘grudge’ against any male she happened to come into contact with.  Obviously, her views regarding men were very different from those of the women around her, which could possibly be due to the events in her life that led her to possess negative connotations towards men.

However, some believe that Plath’s opposition and general hatred towards men comes not from circumstance, but rather male dominance. The popular opinion on this side of the spectrum is that Plath was able to see clearly the reality of male dominance in the society that she lived in and was one of the few woman calling out against it. The question remains: did Plath’s derogatory experiences with men cloud her vision and insight on male dominance in the world she lived in? Maybe. Regardless of whether or not Plath’s views on the roles of men in that times were accurate, she certainly had past experiences that could have marred any credibility she might have once given the male race.”

Susan Gubar – American author

It is crystal clear that Sylvia has issues with male domination. Obviously, she writes from a feminist point of view. Most of her works are known as Sylvia Plath’s feminism. Sylvia Plath’s poetry demonstrates womanhood and the problems of women in her society. She has issues with her husband, with her father and with every male in society. Sylvia Plath’s poetry is full of womanhood and she is definitely on the woman’s side. Indeed, Sylvia Plath’s poetry defends womanhood, due to which Sylvia Plath‘s feminism is widely discussed.

Related Questions:

  • Write a comprehensive note on the theme of Feminism as treated by Sylvia Plath in her poems.
  • Discuss the Major themes in the poetry of Sylvia Plath.