Sylvia Plath’s illustrious and socially accurate, Monologue at 3AM highlights the great concern that society should have for depression in youth, much deserving of widespread community awareness. The poem will be analysed, and evaluated alongside other pop culture sources that bring to light the issue that so heavily affects many of the youths today. Plath’s work of art, is, wholly and truly, a poem asking the reader, is it better to rage over the painfulness of depression, or sit quietly, and let it take over.
Monologue at 3AM, is a poem about the decision- making processes for people living with depression. Plath, who committed suicide in 1963, wrote of her pain of being unable to express the feelings swirling in her head, the same emotions many teens in 2016 experience, over half a century after her premature death. The palpable and profound messages of Plath’s poetry broadcasted to the youth of today is seemingly being ignored and disregarded by medical professionals, according to Health Affairs, who conducted a survey exemplifying the number of management processes for depression was significantly lower than those for physical ailments. Results like these are making the issue difficult to remedy. And the illness is not a small one. The World Health Organisation released a statement in April 2016, stating that there were 350 million individual cases internationally of clinical depression; and in Australia, there are 1 million diagnosed. This means that 1 in every 23 Australian will have depression. The issue can no longer go unnoticed in our youth. Australia is struggling, the teenagers are struggling, and Plath knew about it long before it was socially acceptable to talk about mental illness.
In the first stanza, Plath’s use of allusion, through the witching hour, gives a bleak yet insistent outlook on the lives of people living with depression. The title, Monologue at 3AM, refers to the hour that demons and devils supposedly run amok in our world. The decision the narrator has to make is whether to live or die, due to severe depression, and through this process, Plath was facing her demons. In 1956, when the poem was written, suicide was illegal in USA, something which demons and devils are representative of. The “snake-figured almanac” that Plath uses as a metaphor for a date for suicide by hanging, identifies the struggles teens face with depression, and makes the reader think of their own mortality, and whether they would be capable of taking their life.
Plath’s imagery in the poem is, above anything, an incessant and chronic reminder for the Australian public that depression is an issue that the current adolescent generation and youthful populations to come have to face. The powerful imaginings of Plath the reader is burdened with, are as uninvitingly cold as the poem itself, further reinforcing the need to generate community awareness of depression. The “green counties” and “prickling stars” are reminiscent of a time that many people living with depression long for, giving the poem an alienating feel.
Of course, living in a world with 350 million individual cases diagnosed depression, the poem uncannily resembles 2016, and captures the numbness of depression. “blackening the time where goodbyes were said”. Plath’s submission to depression is not only catalogued in Monologue at 3AM, but in all of her works. The message is one that has been delivered over and over again. Joy Division’s Disorder is another clear example of the need for awareness of the issue. The lead singer of Joy Division, Ian Curtis, committed suicide after dealing with a lifetime of depression. The famously dark and somber lyricist, wrote Disorder about the dysfunction of life for those with depression, and the manic deliriousness sufferers go through on a day-to-day basis. Like the poem, Disorder chronicles the decision that many people with depression feel the need to make: to live with the pain or to die, and leave it all behind. Plath, while taking her life almost two decades before Curtis, still saw a disorder in the world that many of us cannot fathom; promoting even more need for public awareness of the youth issue.
The poem is a cue to talk about the elephant in every room, and something that we can no longer afford to be embarrassed about. If depression in youth is not addressed, and the poignant message Plath obliges us to grasp is not understood, depression will become an emblem for Gen Z. The Who probably said it best: I hope I die before I get old (Talkin’ ’bout my generation). The relevance of Monologue at 3AM is so important in a world spinning out of control; in a world where the severity of depression is still overlooked. I will leave you with the words spoken by the anonymous population of the internet: “Depression is living in a body that fights to survive with a mind that tries to die.”