Male female relationship in Sylvia Plath poetry

Question: Comment on the male-female relationship in Sylvia Plath’s poetry. Male female relationship in Sylvia Plath poetry.


Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) is an American poet, novelist and short-story writer. She is credited with advancing the genre of confessional poetry. She is best known for her two collections of poetry “The Colossus and Other Poems and Ariel”. In Plath’s poetry, we vividly notice that there are two kinds of male-female relationships such as relation between fathers and daughters and between husband and wives.

Husband-wife relationship

The relation between husband and wife does not seem to be happy. Plath represents in her poem, ‘Lesbos’ the husbands are impotent, useless, deserving of scornful dismissal. They could be spoken of by the potential husbands in ‘The Applicant’. But at least these men are not physically frightening, as the black demi-devil husbands in ‘Daddy’ most definitely are. Thus, Plath presents husbands as sadistic torturers.

The silent, silver-suited husband

The silent, silver-suited husband who gets the sinister gift in ‘A Birthday Present’ is terrible too. He oppresses his wife in different, more subtle ways. Universally, it proves that heterosexual love relationships are difficult in Sylvia Plath’s poems. Even when she writes exuberantly about being followed by a lover, there is a strong tendency to violence through the poem ‘Pursuit’, which suggests that female is victim, bait. She will be eaten up worn out, throw aside.

Cold or sadistic husbands

Cold or sadistic husbands are displayed by other sinister male figures in Sylvia Plath’s work. In ‘The Moon and the Yew Tree’ the black, masculine tree is confusing, refusing to provide and comfort or answers. Male figures connected with organized religion and medicine are almost always intimidating, the sexton and rector in ‘The Bee Meeting’ bewilder the flashed vulnerable speaker who is being introduced into bee-keeping, the doctors ‘The Stones’ assault the female patient’s body: they are voluntary clinical torturers.

Father and daughter relationship in Plath’s poetry

Plath reveals in her poems the father and daughter relationship. We notice the most shocking descriptions of male violence in Sylvia Plath’s work, which arrives when she narrates the father figure, especially her own father, Otto Plath. Her most intense works are about her dead father. Like the mother in ‘Medusa’, the father in ‘Daddy’ is constricting, suffocating. He is more than this. Plath expresses her father as a brute and a vampire, a Nazi commandant, a devil.

The bitter experience of conjugal life

Plath represents the bitter experience of conjugal life in her poem “The Rival”. Though the title is ironic in its own way, we notice two warring figures, husband and wife. It is a poem in which metaphor; subject and above all, tone combine to generate the effect of cold, furious animosity and rivalry between husband and wife. Perhaps it is the shadow of the proposal life of Sylvia Plath. She has gained experience from the bitter conjugal relationship both in the case of her parents and in that of her own.


In termination, we can say that the male-female relationship is the most important theme of her poems. She gains bitter experience from her and her parents’ conjugal life.

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SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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