The Lovely Never-Never Land of Magic, of Fairy Queens and Virginal Maidens: Fairy Tale Imagery in the Early Poetry of Sylvia Plath

Date of Graduation

Spring 2007


Master of Arts in English



Committee Chair

Jim Jones


This project will counter previous critical assumptions of scholarship discounting Plath's early poetry (1952-56), and will assert that Plath's use of fairy tale imagery in her early poetry laid the groundwork in the development of various poetic personas in Ariel and in the creation of her personal mythology. After detailing first previous Plath scholarship and criticism along with discussing Plath's biography and her publication history, I focus in more detail on the background of psychoanalytic feminist theory and its relationship to Plath scholarship. I then discuss the history and background of fairy tales, various fairy tale theories, and the psychoanalytic implications of fairy tales. After this set up I will analyze and explicate specific Plath poems and their uses of fairy tale motifs using psychoanalytic feminist theory. Ultimately I conclude that the fairy tale motifs Plath used in her early poetry were the foundation for later motifs common to Plath's entire poetic oeuvre, thus contradicting previous Plath scholarship that has dismissed Plath's early work as unimportant and juvenile. My thesis proves that the early poetry is essential for the development of the later poetry and is thus worthy of critical scholarship and must be studied to fully appreciate Plath's work as a poet.


Sylvia Plath, Ariel, fairy tales, fairy tale imagery, poetic personas

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


© Kimberly Gottlieb