What Is Sylvia Plath’s Writing Style?


Sylvia Plath was best known for her autobiographical poetry written in the confessionalist “I” style that emerged during the 1950s. Confessionalist poetry deals with subjects such as death, trauma and depression.

Plath used a powerful, intensely emotional autobiographical approach in her work. One of her most famous poems, “Daddy,” combines the singsong style of childhood rhymes with the chugging sound of a train and addresses her troubled relationship with her father. An immigrant from Germany, Otto Plath died in 1940 when Sylvia was just 8 years old. In her poem, Plath weaves details of her father’s transatlantic journey along with references to the Holocaust.

Plath published a collection of poems, “The Colossus,” and her only novel, “The Bell Jar,” during her lifetime. Though her career was relatively short, both publications were well received by critics. “Ariel,” a collection of poems written in the weeks before her death, was published posthumously by her husband, poet Ted Hughes. Hughes also published “The Collected Poems” posthumously, for which Plath was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1982, becoming the first poet to posthumously be awarded.

Plath suffered from bipolar disorder and committed suicide in 1963, not long after separation from her husband left her to care for their two young children on her own.