Wednesday, September 18, 2019
Plath - A Rebuttal of the Feminist Label :: Biography Biographies Essays
Plath - A Rebuttal of the "Feminist" LabelÃ Ã Ã Ã Ã Sylvia Plath has long been hailed as a feminist writer of great significance. In her 1976 book Literary Women, Ellen Moers writes, "No writer has meant more to the current feminist movement" (qtd. in Wagner 5), and still today, at a time when the idea of equality for women isn't so radically revolutionary as it had been earlier in the century, Plath is a literary symbol of the women's rights movement. Roberta Mazzenti quotes Robert A. Piazza as writing that there is "little feminist consciousness" in Plath's work, and goes on to explain that because "Plath's work [is] being read... by readers searching for political sustenance", feminist sentiment that the author never held can easily be attributed to her writing (201). This kind of misguided attribution is illustrated in the opinions of critics like Sheryl Meyering, who states that Sylvia Plath's intense desire to be accepted by men and to eventually marry and have children was purely a product of the constrictive 1950s soc ial mentality during which the author came to womanhood (xi). A thorough examination of the Plath oeuvre paints a different picture, however. Although Plath's awareness of and distaste for the submissive and insubstantial role a woman in the 1950s was expected to play is apparent from her early journals to the poems completed in the last month of her life, that same body of work also makes plain that she had accepted some of that role for herself on her own terms: a common theme throughout the writing is the author's intense desire to be a beloved and loving wife and, perhaps even more strong, her desire to become a mother--as long as she could still speak from within her "deeper self" through her writing. In 1953, at age 20, Plath wrote in her journal: I must find a strong potential powerful mate who can counter my vibrant dynamic self: sexual and intellectual, and while comradely, I must admire him: respect and admiration must equate with the object of my love (that is where the remnants of paternal, godlike qualities come in). (Journals, 73) Here, the reader finds no hint of misandrist resistance to the idea of a strong attachment to a mate. Indeed, it seems obvious that Plath was searching for an equal to accompany her through all the aspects of a multifaceted life.