Sylvia Plath took her own life aged just 30. Hers was a brief and tragic life. But it was also an incredibly full one. A childhood genius who grew up in the shadow of an overbearing father, Plath became one of the most unique voices in poetry by the time she was in her 20s. And, while her marriage to fellow poet Ted Hughes tended to define her while she was alive, in the years and decades following her death, her skills as a poet have become increasingly apparent and increasingly respected.
Plath was not just a poet. She was a novelist, a daughter, a mother and a wife. She was also a free spirit who crisscrossed the Atlantic, winning friends and admirers in both England and her native United States. However, in death as in life, Plath continues to divide opinion. To her critics, she will forever be in the shadow of Hughes. To her fans, however, she invented a whole new style of confessional poetry, redefining the genre and influencing many who came after her.
So, who was the real Sylvia Plath and why does her life and work continue to matter? Here we present all you need to know about one of the greatest writers of the 20th century:
34. Plath was born into an academic family, but also one that was constantly struggling for money
Sylvia Plath was born on October 27, 1932, in the city of Boston. Her father was Otto Plath, a professor of biology at Boston University, and her mother, Aurelia was a housewife. Shortly after the birth of Sylvia’s little brother Warren, the Plath family moved to the city of Winthrop, Massachusetts, where Auerlia’s parents lived. While Otto Plath was a respected scientist and the author of a notable book about bumblebees, the family lived in relative poverty. However, in her poem ‘Point Shirley’, Plath recalls that her mother shielded her and her brother from the reality of their economic troubles.