Womanhood in Sylvia Plath’s poetry
Sylvia Plath is one of those writers, who have preferred equality for women in every field of life; she considers women equal to men. She has raised voice against male domination. She has thought that women are being deprived from their legal and ethical rights, therefore, they should also be given the same status as it has been given to male sex. Being a woman, she considers her responsibility to fight for women’s rights. She talks about miseries of females but does not give any solution. She only raises questions and leaves everything else on society. She was a woman, who was physically abused. Whether she was victim of circumstances or not? It 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 remains topic of discussion in the poetry of Sylvia Plath. A lot of poems have been written by her on the miseries of woman. Let’s discuss them one by one.
“Widow” is a poem, in which she talks about grief, sorrows and sufferings of a widow after the death of her husband. This poem is although autobiographical yet at the same time is universal. She has seen her mother experiencing pain just after the death of Otto Plath. Her father has left her 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 a peaceful life because of the male dominance. Thus, in this poem she describes the troubles of every widow. She says that a widow struggles in her whole life. The grief of her husband’s death is not temporary but permanent, which can effect on her whole life and even on her children, if any. Although, the poet has not experienced this pain yet she has seen her mother struggling. Her mother’s mourning compelled her to compose this poem with 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 happy days of her life which she has spent with her husband. Now she is helpless and has no other choice except trying to forget her memories. In this way, a widow suffers twice. First, on the death of her husband and second, while struggling to forget memories. Thus, miseries of a widow increase day by day, which are definitely painful.
“Mushroom” is also another poem of Sylvia Plath, in which she talks about the resistance of a woman to get her recognition in the society. As compared to men, women have to work hard to get good name and fame. She compares mushroom with women. Mushroom is metaphor for women and every line of the poem is not about mushroom 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 freedom and equality.
In another poem titled “Ariel”, feminism has been presented. The title of the poem also suggests the same. Critics are of the view that “Ariel” means God’s lioness, who has great powers. Similarly, feminism in “Bell Jar” is also witnessed. Another important poem, which deals with the security of women is “The Bee Meeting”. In this poem, the poet feels herself 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 her because she belongs to female sex. Similarly, the poem, “Daddy” is also about sufferings of a woman. Her father and husband; none of them is loyal to her. She is struck between love and haltered towards her father and her husband. She cannot understand who is more responsible for her annihilation; whether it is 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.”
It is crystal clear that Sylvia has issue with male domination. Obviously, she writes about feminist point of view. In many of her poems, she demonstrates the problems of women of her society. She has issues with her husband, with her father and with every male person of the society. Her poems are full of womanhood and she is definitely on woman’s side. Indeed, she takes every step to defend womanhood.