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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

15. Poetry of Liberation

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Activities: Author Activities

Sylvia Plath - Selected Archive Items

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[1617] Anonymous, Emily Dickinson (n.d.),
courtesy of Amherst College Library. Portrait of Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) sitting at table.
Until recently, this was the only known image of Dickinson, a recluse who rarely left her home in Amherst, Massachusetts. Dickinson influenced many twentieth-century poets, including Sylvia Plath and Adrienne Rich.

[9153] Fred Palumbo, Betty Friedan (1960),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-115884].
In 1963, Betty Friedan's groundbreaking Feminine Mystique changed American society by heightening awareness of what she termed "the problem that has no name," the desperation that many women felt, confined to their homes and families.

[9154] U.S. Office of War, Housewife Preparing Dinner in Compact Kitchen in Greenbelt, Maryland (c. 1942),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-94034].
Women's roles were largely confined to homemaking until the women's movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Poet Sylvia Plath's work, much of it published posthumously in the mid-1960s, chronicles her struggle for a creative identity apart from the confines of domesticity.

[9181] Anonymous, Hitler, from "The Year 1945" newsreel (1946),
courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.
Sylvia Plath's poetry often draws on Holocaust imagery. In both "Lady Lazarus" and "Daddy," Plath identifies with the Jews who suffered under Nazi rule. The speaker of "Daddy" rails against the memory of a father whose influence, even in death, is oppressive. Plath writes: "Not God but a swastika / So black no sky could squeak through."

[9182] Anonymous, Jews Freed from Concentration Camp, from "The Year 1945" newsreel (1946),
courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.
In Plath's poem "Daddy," the speaker identifies with the plight of the Jews under the Nazi regime and characterizes her father as a Nazi. Plath has been criticized for her use of Holocaust imagery.

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