Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath works on her typewriter perched on a stone wall in Yorkshire, England in 1956.

Someone has been calling to me as of late, and that person appears to be Sylvia Plath. Her voice is much more assertive than I imagine she would have used during her short life and it insists I read, love and share. (So you know, she is not concerned with the order in which I pursue these).

Currently, The Death and Life of Sylvia Plath and The Bell Jar rest by my bed waiting for me to take them in each night. I find the biography difficult, revealing and troubling. The Bell Jar reads like silk through my hands. Loving it, I am.

‘I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart: I am, I am, I am.’ ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 20

These two books do compliment one another. Although unnerving, the biography gives the reader a good insight to the novel. Ironically, The Bell Jar is a mirror of a time in Sylvia’s young personal life. Plath uses the mirror metaphorically throughout the novel and the imagery within is fantastic. Originally published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas in 1963, this semi-autobiographical novel parallels Plath’s experience living in New York for a summer working as a junior editor for Mademoiselle. Further analogies include many references to people in Plath’s own life, electric shock therapy and the fact that the protagonist, Ester Greenwood, attempts suicide.

The writing in this novel is simple, edgy and vivid. Although written in the 50’s, I recognize many of the timeless issues included around social troubles, sexual relations and family relationships. I can’t help but get absorbed as I follow the journey of this troubled young woman slipping into insanity.

‘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, Chapter 8

It is my hope that The Bell Jar should at some point make its way into bed with you.


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