Sylvia Plath's life, like her manic depression, constantly jumped between Heaven and Hell. Her seemingly perfect exterior hid a turbulent and deeply troubled spirit. A closer look at her childhood and personal experiences removes some element of mystery from her writings.
One central character to Sylvia Plath's poems is her father, Professor Otto Emile Plath. Otto Plath was diabetic and refused to stay away from foods restricted by his doctor. As a result , he developed a sore on his left foot. Professor Plath ignored the sore, and eventually the foot was overcome with gangrene. The foot and then the entire left leg were amputated in an effort to save his life, but he died in November of 1940, when Sylvia was just eight years old.
The fact that her father could have prevented his death left Sylvia Plath with a feeling of deliberate betrayal. Instead of reaching out to other people for comfort, she isolated herself with writing as her only expressive outlet, and remarkably had a poem published when she was only eight.
Plath continued prolific writing through high school and won a scholarship to Smith College in 1950 where she met her friend Anne Sexton. Sexton often joined Plath for martinis at the Ritz where they shared poetry and intellectualized discussions about death. Although they were friends, there was also an element of competition between Sexton and Plath. Sylvia Plath's poem "Daddy" was possibly a response to Anne Sexton's "My Friend, My Friend." It was as if Plath was commenting that her writing skills were just a bit better than Sexton's. Sexton frequently would express to Robert Lowell in his poetry class her dissatisfaction with Plath's writing. She said that Plath "dodges the point in her poetry and hadn't yet found the form that belonged to her."...