Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) was an American poet and novelist, largely remembered for her pioneering work in confessional poetry. Her semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, first published in 1962, thinly disguises Plath’s own struggles with mental illness, specifically clinical depression, from which she suffered most of her life and eventually drove her to suicide.
Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, Massachusetts, publishing her fist poem at the age of eight in the children’s section of the Boston Herald. As a child, she continued writing and publishing poetry, and even showed promise as a painter. Her father’s death shortly after her eighth birthday was later seen by Plath as a major event in her development. Plath attended Smith College, but soon descended into the first of many crises brought on by her depression, attempting suicide after failing to meet Dylan Thomas.
Eventually, she obtained a Fulbright scholarship, studying at Cambridge, where she met future husband and fellow poet Ted Hughes in 1956. The two quickly married, but separated in 1962 after Plath discovered Hughes was having an affair. During the winter of 1962/1963, despite an outburst of creativity in which she wrote numerous poems now hailed as brilliant, her depression returned. On February 11, 1963, while her two children were sleeping upstairs, Sylvia Plath put her head in the oven with the gas on and took her own life.