On this day in 1963, Sylvia Plath sealed the kitchen off from the rest of the house, stuck her head in an un-lit oven and, breathing deeply of the carbon monoxide the heatless beast exhaled, took her own life. The self-inflicted tragedy left two children motherless, and a world bereft of the incredible talent of a young writer in the prime of her life. One cannot help but wonder what other work Plath might have produced had she not succumbed to her depression. After rereading her novel, The Bell Jar, which was an autobiographical account of her first suicide attempt in her early twenties, it seemed appropriate to mark the anniversary of her own self-inflicted death with this quote, taken from her diaries. I post it, not out of macabre fascination or in an attempt to glamorize her death, but for those out there struggling with depression and the dark thoughts that often accompany it. By killing herself, Plath gave up the opportunity to know any of those “shades, tones and varieties of mental and physical experience” ever again. By ending her life, she removed any possibility of achieving any more dreams, learning any new skills, of having any new experiences. You see, death may seem like an escape, but it’s really a robbery. All that potential, stolen by death. If she felt herself “horribly limited” before…
In spite of her untimely death, Plath’s relevance and exceptional talent can still felt, near half a century after her death. People are still debating the exact cause of her mercurial moods, young women are still picking up copies of The Bell Jar and recognizing something of themselves in Esther Greenwood, the specter of Sylvia is still releasing poems and journals, you can still hear this long dead woman’s voice read her own poems, even after all these years. If you have any compulsion to learn more about Miss Plath, you can check out my review of The Bell Jar, or pick up a copy of the book for yourself. Also, those awesome cat’s over on Crash Course did an excellent rundown of the poetry of Emily Plath.
if you or anyone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, I urge you to seek help. Please, reach out to someone. I assure you, child, you are not alone.
1. Ariel: Poems by Sylvia Plath First American Edition 1966
2. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath vintage paperback
3. Vintage Woven Leather Flats – Size 11
4. Vintage Style Floral Turban Headband
5. Vintage Deadstock Black Clubmaster Eye Glasses
6. Vintage 1950s Straw Hat
7. Calligraphy Starter Kit
8. Busy Bee Brooch
9. Vintage Glass Cloche Bell Jar Dome
10. Long Wool Skirt
11. Crazy Horse Leather Bag
12. Vintage 1950s Black Lace Gloves
13. Vintage Typewriter Oliveti Lettera 22
So, my obsession with Ms. Plath has reached new highs of late, so much so that my Etsy favorites are channeling her vibe super hard. Decided to put together this little wishlist of Plath-ian goodies that I’m pretty sure Sylvia would have approved of. That vintage Oliveti typewriter is just like one Plath used. She was so fond of writing letters, I imagine her handwriting was impeccable, so I included a little Calligraphy starter kit to prettify your poetry. That darling bumble bee brooch is an homage to her father, whose work with bees Sylvia much admired. And of course, what Sylvia-themed wishlist would be complete without copies of her most famous works, The Bell Jar and a first addition copy of Ariel.
With the recent 52-year anniversary of Sylvia Plath’s suicide, I decided to revisit her haunting memoir of a young woman slipping into madness. While re-reading this dark and deeply relatable novel for the first time since my early teens, I found myself just as profoundly moved by it as I had been as a young woman. I, like many other young women struggling with depression and a sense of uncertainty, felt such kinship to the novels protagonist, Esther Greenwood. A feminist in a time when the word was still dirty, her maddening desire to be something more than a supporting character in a man’s story left her confused, frustrated and unsure of what to do with her life instead. Esther’s struggle stems from the futility of all her education and effort in the face of what society viewed as her inevitable tethering to a man, children and a home. But it is also with her indecision, her uncertainty over which path to choose. The scene depicting this is expertly illustrated in the cartoon below.