Sylvia Plath and the containment of women’s domestic identity

Abstract

Within the unstable sphere of the 1950s Cold War political tensions, American women became the ‘bastion of safety in an insecure world’ (Tyler May, 2008: p.9). For politicians such as Richard Nixon, women’s loyalty to the home served as a commitment to America, negotiating a settlement which secured women within the confinements of domestic duties. This ideal, advertised through compelling magazine articles, manipulatively enabled a universal identity for women based within the home. Pages packed with the latest consumer products and laced with ‘smooth artificiality… cool glamour, and the apple-pie happy domesticity’ (Bronfen, 2004: p.115) birthed a rich propaganda for domestic containment. Examining the political climate of Cold War America through the lens of domestic containment, this article argues that American poet Sylvia Plath tackled the illusions of consumerism to fuel her writing, challenging outright gender inequality which defined the nation.


Using Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (2010) alongside genuine articles from the era, this article assesses the ideological conflict of the 1950s domesticated woman against Plath’s personal battle between writing and domestic life. Through her raw depictions of realism in literature and intense poetry, it becomes impossible to ‘contain’ Plath, not only within the domestic sphere, but also in her own writing

Keywords

Literature, Poetry, Sylvia Plath, Second Wave Feminism, Consumerism, Containment, Cold War, Betty Friedan

How to Cite

Slater, E. C., (2022) “Sylvia Plath and the containment of women’s domestic identity”, Fields: journal of Huddersfield student research 8(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.5920/fields.979

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Authors

Eleanor Catherine Slater (School of Media, Music and Humanities)

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This article has been peer reviewed.

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