The Bell Jar

The Past and the Present in Kingston's "Woman Warrior" and Sylvia Plath's Poetry

It is important to acknowledge that the past and the present can coexist in a single work to remarkable effect. In Maxine Hong Kingston's "Woman Warrior", memories are so closely associated with the present and with legends that it becomes difficult to distinguish reality from fiction; indeed, the subtitle of Kingston's work is "Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts", implying that the author did not intend for one to make such distinctions. Kingston does this in order to suspend the reader's disbelief just long enough to supply credibility to her own thoughts. In the poetry of Sylvia Plath, however, the past and the present commingle with a far less overt purpose. Although readers do not doubt Plath's thoughts, they may question her motives. Some of her poetry is written in the present tense, some takes place in the past, and still others jump from one tense to the other. Though it may appear that Kingston's and Plath's dramatically different writing styles command equally opposing results, their usage of memory to explain present events is strikingly similar. In both Kingston's and Plath's work, memories integrated with present events help to bridge the gap two different ways...

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