Almost There : Approaches to Closure in the Works of Sylvia Plath

University dissertation from Uppsala : Engelska institutionen

Abstract: This study of Sylvia Plath’s writings investigates aspects of representations of life and life stories. It is composed of three distinct analyses, the shared feature being their focus on the connection between narrative closure and closure in life. By stressing relations between structure and theme, the study tries to avoid biographical readings without disengaging the writer from the work. The study explores how Plath’s thematic and narrative approaches to the end create a framework for storytelling in individual poems, in life writing, and throughout a poetic oeuvre. Firstly, it observes differences between representations of first- and third-person deaths, and suggests that Plath’s poems set up and follow guidelines that govern the representation of death. Secondly, foregrounding how the journals depend on the diarist’s ability to keep on writing, this study proposes that works dealing with the father’s death demonstrate that a search for closure in life and in narrative is related to the act of living, whether the traces of the author originate in a biographical reference or in the fact that Plath over the years creates variations on scenes of death. Thirdly, it examines how a family story changes over time because of circumstances outside the family sphere. Plath’s speakers repeatedly find that either emigration or war has ended their life stories, and so they must return to the past again and again in order to make a story as complete and bearable as possible. In the texts explored, when there is a desire to tell a story about life, death becomes an essential part of the storytelling, as does the end. However, although these works may seem death-driven, the examination of death or the end of a family story is propelled by the speakers’ or narrators’ endeavor to continue telling stories.

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