70+ Memorable Sylvia Plath Quotes About Life and Love

Find your memorable Sylvia Plath quote from this collection of selected works and passages from one of the 20th century’s most tragic and brilliant writers.

Sylvia Plath was an American poet and author. Born in 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts, she was known for her gorgeous, visceral confessional poetry and prose that dealt with topics ranging from gender inequality to the anxieties surrounding death. After battling mental illness for most of her life, Plath died by suicide in 1963. Her brilliance lives on in her writing, which remains poignant and relevant. 

In this collection of quotes from Sylvia Plath, you may find comfort, solace, or a new way to view life in its endless complexities. 

Quotes on Introspection

Many of Plath’s most thought-provoking quotes are built on deep introspection. These moments of reflection and inward thinking might inspire you to do some soul-searching of your own. 

1. “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

2. “I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.’” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

3. “If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I'm neurotic as hell. I'll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

4. “The trouble was, I had been inadequate all along, I simply hadn't thought about it.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

5. “Of course, I didn't believe in life after death or the virgin birth or the Inquisition or the infallibility of that little monkey-faced Pope or anything, but I didn't have to let the priest see this, I could just concentrate on my sin, and he would help me repent.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

6. “I began to think vodka was my drink at last. It didn't taste like anything, but it went straight down into my stomach like a sword swallower's sword and made me feel powerful and godlike.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

7. “Ever since I was small I loved feeling somebody comb my hair. It made me go all sleepy and peaceful.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

8. “My mother said the cure for thinking too much about yourself was helping somebody who was worse off than you.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

9. “I took up the silver knife and cracked off the cap of my egg. Then I put down the knife and looked at it. I tried to think what I had loved knives for, but my mind slipped from the noose of the thought and swung, like a bird, in the center of empty air.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

10. “I felt very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

11. “The floor seemed wonderfully solid. It was comforting to know I had fallen and could fall no farther.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

12. “Maybe forgetfulness, like a kind of snow, should numb and cover them. But they were part of me. They were my landscape.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

13. “All the heat and fear purged itself. I felt surprisingly at peace. The bell jar hung, suspended, a few feet above my head. I was open to the circulating air.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

14. “And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

15. “I desire the things which will destroy me in the end.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

16. “I wonder why I don't go to bed and go to sleep. But then it would be tomorrow, so I decide that no matter how tired, no matter how incoherent I am, I can skip one hour more of sleep and live.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

17. “I have the choice of being constantly active and happy or introspectively passive and sad. Or I can go mad by ricocheting in between.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

18. “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

19. “Life has been a combination of fairy-tale coincidence and joie de vivre and shocks of beauty together with some hurtful self-questioning.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

20. “If I didn't think, I'd be much happier; if I didn't have any sex organs, I wouldn't waver on the brink of nervous emotion and tears all the time.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

22. “Yes, I want the world's praise, money, and  love, and am furious with anyone...getting ahead of me.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

23. “Here I am, a bundle of past recollections and future dreams, knotted up in a reasonably attractive bundle of flesh. I remember what this flesh has gone through; I dream of what it may go through.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

24. “With me, the present is forever, and forever is always shifting, flowing, melting. This second is life. And when it is gone it is dead. But you can't start over with each new second. You have to judge by what is dead.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

25. “Why can't I try on different lives, like dresses, to see which fits best and is more becoming?” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

26. “I like people too much or not at all. I've got to go down deep, to fall into people, to really know them.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Quotes on Depression

Plath’s thoughts on mental illness—particularly those that resulted from musings on depressive episodes—are bleak windows into how insurmountable depression can feel and reminders that those who suffer are never alone. 

27. “If you expect nothing from somebody you are never disappointed.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

28. “I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

29. “The silence depressed me. It wasn't the silence of silence. It was my own silence.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

30. “To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

31. “Because wherever I sat—on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok—I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

32. “I didn't know why I was going to cry, but I knew that if anybody spoke to me or looked at me too closely the tears would fly out of my eyes and the sobs would fly out of my throat and I'd cry for a week. I could feel the tears brimming and sloshing in me like water in a glass that is unsteady and too full.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

33. I couldn't see the point of getting up. I had nothing to look forward to.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

34. “I thought the most beautiful thing in the world must be shadow, the million moving shapes and cul-de-sacs of shadow. There was shadow in bureau drawers and closets and suitcases, and shadow under houses and trees and stones, and shadow at the back of people's eyes and smiles, and shadow, miles and miles and miles of it, on the night side of the earth.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

35. “It seemed silly to wash one day when I would only have to wash again the next. It made me tired just to think of it.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

36. “There must be quite a few things a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them. Whenever I'm sad I'm going to die, or so nervous I can't sleep, or in love with somebody I won't be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: ‘I'll go take a hot bath.’” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

37. “I felt myself melting into the shadows like the negative of a person I'd never seen before in my life.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

38. “The more hopeless you were, the further away they hid you.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

39. “I felt like a racehorse in a world without racetracks or a champion college footballer suddenly confronted by Wall Street and a business suit, his days of glory shrunk to a little gold cup on his mantel with a date engraved on it like the date on a tombstone.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

40. “I may never be happy, but tonight I am content.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

41. “Yes, there is joy, fulfillment and companionship—but the loneliness of the soul in its appalling self-consciousness is horrible and overpowering.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

42. “Perhaps some day I'll crawl back home, beaten, defeated. But not as long as I can make stories out of my heartbreak, beauty out of sorrow.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

43. “And the danger is that in this move toward new horizons and far directions, that I may lose what I have now, and not find anything except loneliness.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

44. “I feel outcast on a cold star, unable to feel anything but an awful helpless numbness.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

45. “Is anyone anywhere happy?” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

46. “I am afraid. I am not solid, but hollow. I feel behind my eyes a numb, paralyzed cavern, a pit of hell, mimicking nothingness. I never thought. I never wrote, I never suffered.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

47. “I am jealous of those who think more deeply, who write better, who draw better, who ski better, who look better, who live better, who love better than I.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

48. “I must be lean & write & make worlds beside this to live in.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

49. “I am gone quite mad with the knowledge of accepting the overwhelming number of things I can never know, places I can never go, and people I can never be.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

50. “And I sit here without identity: faceless. My head aches.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

51. “What I fear most, I think, is the death of imagination. When the sky outside is merely pink, and the rooftops merely black: that photographic mind which paradoxically tells the truth, but the worthless truth, about the world.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Quotes on Death

For Plath, thinking about death was a constant, a theme that recurs throughout her work. Since we all face our own mortality, her quotes are worth pondering. 

52. “Why do we electrocute men for murdering an individual and then pin a purple heart on them for mass slaughter of someone arbitrarily labeled ‘enemy’?”– Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

53. “I told him I believed in hell, and that certain people, like me, had to live in hell before they died, to make up for missing out on it after death, since they didn't believe in life after death, and what each person believed happened to him when he died.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

54. “A summer calm laid its soothing hand over everything, like death.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

55. “‘Do you know what a poem is, Esther?’ ‘No, what?’ I would say. ‘A piece of dust.’ Then just as he was smiling and starting to look proud, I would say, ‘So are the cadavers you cut up. So are the people you think you're curing. They're dust as dust as dust. I reckon a good poem lasts a whole lot longer than a hundred of those people put together.’” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

56. “I have always been extremely fond of the definition of Death which says it is: Inaccessibility to Experience.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

57. “It all flowed over me with a screaming ache of pain...remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I've taken for granted. When you feel that this may be the good-bye, the last time, it hits you harder.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

58. “So much working, reading, thinking, living to do. A lifetime is not long enough. Nor youth to old age long enough. Immortality and permanence be damned. Sure I want them, but they are nonexistent, and won't matter when I rot underground.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Quotes on Love

Over the course of her career, Plath wrote many works about love that are filled with tenderness and care; others remark on the darker aspects of romance and the pessimism that can coincide with affection. 

59. “There is nothing like puking with somebody to make you into old friends.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

60. “There is something demoralizing about watching two people get more and more crazy about each other, especially when you are the only extra person in the room. It's like watching Paris from an express caboose heading in the opposite direction—every second the city gets smaller and smaller, only you feel it's really you getting smaller and smaller and lonelier and lonelier, rushing away from all those lights and excitement at about a million miles an hour.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

61. “That's one of the reasons I never wanted to get married. The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be the place an arrow shoots off from. I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

62. “‘If you love her,’ I said, ‘you'll love somebody else someday.’” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

63. “There I went again, building up a glamorous picture of a man who would love me passionately the minute he met me, and all out of a few prosy nothings.”– Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

64. “So I began to think maybe it was true that when you were married and had children it was like being brainwashed, and afterward you went about numb as a slave in some private, totalitarian state.”– Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

65. “I shut my eyes, and the music broke over me like a rainstorm. Marco's leg slid forward against mine and my leg slid back and I seemed to be riveted to him, limb for limb, moving as he moved, without any will or knowledge of my own, and after a while I thought, ‘It doesn't take two to dance, it only takes one,’ and I let myself blow and bend like a tree in the wind.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

66. “I hadn't, at the last moment, felt like washing off the two diagonal lines of dried blood that marked my cheeks. They seemed touching, and rather spectacular, and I thought I would carry them around with me, like the relic of a dead lover, till they wore off of their own accord.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

67. “He was always saying how his mother said, ‘What a man wants is a mate and what a woman wants is infinite security,’ and, ‘What a man is is an arrow into the future and what a woman is is the place the arrow shoots off from,’ until it made me tired.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

68. “I have room in me for love. And for ever so many little lives.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

69. “Love is a desperate artifice to take the place of those two original parents who turned out not to be omnisciently right gods.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

70. “I cut you out because I couldn't stand being a passing fancy. Before I give my body, I must give my thoughts, my mind, my dreams. And you weren't having any of those.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

71. “How we need another soul to cling to.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

72. “I am, to be blunt and concise, in love only with myself, my puny being with its small inadequate breasts and meager, thin talents. I am capable of affection for those who reflect my own world.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

73. “If they substituted the word 'Lust' for 'Love' in the popular songs it would come nearer the truth.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

74. “Kiss me, and you will see how important I am.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

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