Sylvia Plath’s Mourning And Creativity Essay

3366 words - 13 pages

Sylvia Plath’s Mourning and Creativity

In this article, I concentrate on the connection between mourning and creativity
in Sylvia Plath’s work. Melanie Klein postulates that the pain of mourning and the
reparation experienced in the depressive position is the basis of creative activity.
Through creative activity, one can restore lost internal and external objects and lost
happiness. I argue that Plath’s work is an example of Klein’s idea that artists’
creative products represent the process of mourning. For Plath, art -- in her case,
writing -- was a compensation for loss, especially the loss of her father. She seems
to have continued writing as her exercise in mourning and reparation trying to
regain not only her bereaved father but also her internal good object which was lost
when her father died. Through her writing, Plath attempted to enrich her ego with
the father-object.
Keywords: Sylvia Plath, Melanie Klein, mourning, creativity, reparation
In her paper, “Mourning and its Relation to Manic-Depressive States,”
Melanie Klein claims that the work of mourning is a reliving of the early depressive
position. I would like to quote Klein's account:
My experience leads me to conclude that, while it is true that the
characteristic feature of normal mourning is the individual's setting up the
lost loved object inside himself, he is not doing so for the first time but,
through the work of mourning, is reinstating that object as well as all his
loved internal objects which he feels he has lost. He is therefore recovering
what he had already attained in childhood. (Klein, 1988a, p. 362)
According to Klein's hypothesis, the loss of the present object in the external world
brings with it the mourner's unconscious phantasies of having lost one's internal
good objects as well. One is afflicted by the pain of the inner loss in addition to the
outer loss. Every time grief arises, it “undermines the feeling of secure possession
of the loved internal objects” (Klein, 1988b, p. 77). If one reinstates the external
loved object successfully, at the same time one can regain the loved internal objects.
On the other hand, in mourning, one reinstates not only the actual lost objects but
also one's original objects, the parental imagos, which make up one's inner world.
When the actual person has died, one feels in danger of losing one's original parents
as well. The mourner attempts to reinstate the good objects, and to reconstitute the
parental imagos. I would like to quote another account of Klein's:
It is by reinstating inside himself the good parents as well as the recently lost
person, and by rebuilding his inner world, which was disintegrated and in
danger, that he overcomes his grief, regains security, and achieves true
harmony and peace. (Klein, 1988a, p. 368)
“The attempts to save the love object,” writes Klein in “A Contribution to the
Psychogenesis of Manic-Depressive States,” “to repair and restore it,...

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