International Women's Day: Sylvia Plath

'There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them' - Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath is an icon of literature that I have talked about considerably in the past. Despite her extensive work, I have nonetheless found that often little more is known of her than the essential details of her short life, such as “she was a poet and author who killed herself” or that “she was married to Ted Hughes." It makes me sad that such an influential woman and her inspiring work can be reduced in such a manner - especially a woman whose writing has haunted me since the youthful age of fifteen.

The first time I read The Bell Jar I found it hard to connect to the mind of the book's protagonist Esther Greenwood. The society that Sylvia Plath created troubled my young mind. The book is important because it focuses on a young woman who seems to have the world in her hands, and the choices she makes. She achieves good qualifications and gains a summer internship in New York City, working for a magazine company. Esther confesses that although most young girls would dream to have the same opportunities as her; she instead finds the experience frightening. She lacks life experience and this causes her to believe that she is depressed. We, as the reader, are introduced to men such as Buddy Willard, her insincere boyfriend, and Doctor Gordon, who subjects her to traumatic shock treatments. Esther is revealed as neurotic by the end of the novel, but she is truly only a woman having to cope with the struggles that us women all have to face in our day-to-day lives.

This is why I believe Sylvia Plath is such an important icon for International Women’s Day. She uncovers and makes evident how hard it is to be a woman in a modern world. She was a successful author, a mother, and a wife - even in times where women were encouraged to be domestic. This discourse is raised within The Bell Jar when Esther Greenwood is forced to choose between a career or a family. Sylvia Plath was not merely ‘a poet who killed herself’, she was a formidable, brave woman.

Her other works such as Ariel and The Colossus and Other Poems are also incredible pieces of literature that need to be read on this International Women’s Day!