How does Plath’s poetry reflect her struggles with despair and mental illness?

Essay by jellybaeHigh School, 12th gradeA+, November 2014

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'Plath's poetry poignantly reflects her struggles with despair and mental illness'.

Sylvia Plath's poem 'Blackberrying' was written in 1960 whilst she and Ted Hughes lived in Devon. Key themes of anguish and various attributes of mental illness are recurrent throughout the poem, resulting in a tone of misery and hopelessness; as the poem progresses it gets increasingly negative which may embody the speaker's mindset at the time. Infidelity was central in Plath's marriage and a plea is delivered for the blackberries to 'love me', possibly reflecting the lack of acknowledgment she may have felt, in a foreign country with a disloyal husband. The act of her going 'Blackberrying' is something ironic - a childish pastime to collect sweet fruit is soiled by dark imagery and links to death and depression (perhaps implying a confused outlook - how are such innocent things turning so sour?). The speaker of this poem could be Plath's way of expressing how she felt.

Plath herself was immensely depressed during her life and her declining mental health is evident in 'Blackberrying'. The speaker states that the sea is 'somewhere' at the end of the road, seemingly as if she is wandering with no real intentions of reaching it (perhaps portraying a hopeless attitude) as if she sees no point in anything anymore. She also voices how singled out she feels - 'a sudden wind funnels at me' and 'in my face' - displaying how she may believe the world is working against her.

Attempting once in 1950 and then succeeding in 1963, suicide was majorly associated with Plath and comes across in her writing. 'Ebon', 'choughs' and 'black' are associated with death, linking to suicide and possibly alluding to the speaker's mounting suicidal wishes. This can also be said when she links 'choughs' to 'bits...