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Thread: Sylvia Plath

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    Default Sylvia Plath

    Sylvia Plath

    Gamma SF (Se-ISFj or Se-ESFp); Delta NF (Ne-INFj or Ne-ENFp); or IEI [someone once suggested that she V.I.'d INFp]

    Here are the pictures:


    Here are the quotes:

    - from Sylvia Plath: Collected Poems [Edited by Ted Hughes]; p. 162:

    I Am Vertical

    But I would rather be horizontal.
    I am not a tree with my root in the soil
    Sucking up minerals and motherly love
    So that each March I may gleam into leaf,
    Nor am I the beauty of a garden bed
    Attracting my share of Ahs and spectacularly painted,
    Unknowing I must soon unpetal.
    Compared with me, a tree is immortal
    And a flower-head not tall, but more startling,
    And I want the one’s longevity and the other’s daring.

    Tonight, in the infinitesimal light of the stars,
    The trees and flowers have been strewing their cool odors.
    I walk among them, but none of them are noticing.
    Sometimes I think that when I am sleeping
    I must most perfectly resemble them –
    Thoughts gone dim.
    It is more natural to me, lying down.
    Then the sky and I are in open conversation,
    And I shall be useful when I lie down finally:
    Then the trees may touch me for once, and the flowers have time for me.

    28 March 1961

    - from Sylvia Plath: A Literary Life by Linda Wagner-Martin; pp. 78-79: As it is, here in the spring of 1961, the poem she wrote just ten days after "In Plaster" and "Tulips" comes the closest to effecting some sense of rest for the persona. Still an inordinately dark poem, "I Am Vertical" takes its first line as title, pairing it with "But I would rather be horizontal." In draft, the first line of this poem was the flat-footed "This upright position is unnatural / I am not a tree with my root in the soil / sucking up minerals and motherly love"; whereas Plath keeps lines two and three, her new beginning makes them metaphoric rather than literal.
    It is in the second stanza of the moving poem that Plath seems to locate a sense of peace, a calm that - even if it is not exactly health - bodes well for harmony. Almost mystically, the persona identifies with the trees and flowers, and the stanza opens with a languid meditation: "Tonight, in the infinitesimal light of the stars, / The trees and flowers have been strewing their cool odors. / I walk among them . . ."
    An early title for the poem was the descriptive "In a Midnight Garden." Associations with the Garden of Eden, with the power of the myth of creation to form man and woman, and with the healing images of darkness might have created a very different tone for this work. Plath, however, abandons this title and with it more acceptable poetic associations, in order to give the reader this colder, more realistic insight. The reader thinks of Mrs. Plath's [Sylvia's mother] late comment, "she [Sylvia] was so exhausted. She carried so much . . . Ted expected so much of her. She took care of the bills, she made out the tax report, she did all the correspondence because he never would attend to it."
    Still located in a sympathetic natural surrounding, the persona moves into a confessional moment, remarking that she is happiest when she sleeps, with "thoughts gone dim." Such an image sounds like the reaction of the fatigued "Tulips" persona. Yet here the final quatrain of the poem expresses what might be a healthful, peaceful stasis for her: "It is more natural to me, lying down. / Then the sky and I are in open conversation, / And I shall be useful when I lie down finally: / Then the trees may touch me for once, and the flowers have time for me."
    The poet works through metaphor, challenging the reader not to correct that last set of images. We want Plath to say that she will touch the trees; she will have time for the flowers. But, being a poet and being intrinsically aware of the power of language to express without always revealing, she says something quite different. She says in effect, that health is beyond her power to achieve, and that consummation will reclaim her for the only world that matters, the natural one.

    - from BITTER FAME: A Life of Sylvia Plath by Anne Stevenson; p. 54 [(Chapter) 3 – The City of Spare Parts, 1952-1955]: Sylvia began work on her honors thesis, a study of the double in Dostoevsky, shortly after she returned to Smith in September. “The Magic Mirror” – appropriately titled – is a detached, competent study of the crisis of identity in nineteenth-century romantic fiction, which in many ways anticipated the schizoid diagnoses of twentieth-century psychoanalysis. Unfortunately, Sylvia adopted for her thesis the wooden, academic style approved by her supervisor, and no one would guess from reading it that the author of this well-mannered, well-researched academic paper had invested the least bit of emotional capital in it. The logic is impeccable, the notes impressive, the writing studious.

    - p. v: There was a tremendous power in the burning look of her dark eyes; she came “conquering and to conquer.” She seemed proud and occasionally even arrogant; I don’t know if she ever succeeded in being kind, but I do know that she badly wanted to and that she went through agonies to force herself to be a little kind. There were, of course, many fine impulses and a most commendable initiative in her nature; but everything in her seemed to be perpetually seeking its equilibrium and not finding it; everything was in chaos, in a state of agitation and restlessness. Perhaps the demands she made upon herself were too severe and she was unable to find in herself the necessary strength to satisfy them.
    -- Dostoevsky, The Devils

    - from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath; pp. 160-161 (Chapter Thirteen): Then I saw my father’s gravestone.
    It was crowded right up by another gravestone, head to head, the way people are crowded in a charity ward when there isn’t enough space. The stone was of a mottled pink marble, like tinned salmon, and all there was on it was my father’s name and, under it, two dates, separated by a little dash.
    At the foot of the stone I arranged the rainy armful of azaleas I had picked from a bush at the gateway of the graveyard. Then my legs folded under me, and I sat down in the sopping grass. I couldn’t understand why I was crying so hard.
    Then I remembered that I had never cried for my father’s death.
    My mother hadn’t cried either. She had just smiled and said what a merciful thing it was for him he had died, because if he had lived he would have been crippled and an invalid for life, and he couldn’t have stood that, he would rather have died than had that happen.
    I laid my face to the smooth face of the marble and howled my loss into the cold salt rain.

    - Sylvia Plath: A Biography by Connie Ann Kirk pp. 145-147 [(Chapter) 5. A Disturbance in Mirrors: The Late Poems (STASIS AND PROCESS: THE BEEHIVE)]: For, though the derivation of the bee imagery is mythical, Plath is careful to place the image of the beehive within a social context. She does this most systematically through the stages she traces in these poems of the relationship between the poet, the beehive, and the beekeeper. She moves from her father as beekeeper in the three pre-Ariel bee poems to an image of the village midwife as beekeeper and finally to herself as beekeeper in Ariel. Thus a complex set of identifications between the bees and herself and a complex set of oppositions between the bees and an essentially patriarchal human world is set up; also suggested are a number of ways in which the metaphor of the beehive relates to the larger context of a capitalist society.
    Sylvia's Plath's father, Otto Plath, a professor of biology at Boston University and a recognized authority on bees, published Bumblebees and Their Ways in 1934, two years after Sylvia was born. In three early poems -- "Lament" (1951-52), "Electra on Azalea Path" (1959), and "The Beekeeper's Daughter" (1959) -- Plath directs the symbolic significance of the bees and the beehive toward her relationship with her father. In "Lament," an awkward early poem, her father is described as a god-like figure oblivious to storm, sea and lightning, who was nevertheless and ludicrously struck down by a swarm of bees. "A scowl of sun struck down my mother, / tolling her grave with golden gongs, / but the sting of bees took away my father." By the time she writes the two 1959 poems, Plath has begun to identify herself with the bees and thus somehow to assign herself guilt for her father's death, even though she says, in the opening stanza of "Electra on Azalea Path," "I had nothing to do with guilt or anything." "Electra on Azalea Path" begins by identifying the speaker of the poem with a hive of wintering bees. "The day you died I went into the dirt / . . . Where bees, striped black and gold, sleep out the blizzard / Like hieratic stones," she says, and, "It was good for twenty years, that wintering -- ." Somehow, she implies in this poem, it was her birth that presaged her father's death, and her love which finally killed him. Her assumption of guilt is clear in the poem's end: "O pardon the one who knocks for pardon at / Your gate, father -- your hound-bitch, daughter, friend. / It was my love that did us both to death."
    Plath built up a mythical temporal schema into which she fit what she saw as the significant events in her life. Thus she says in "Lady Lazarus" of her suicide attempts, "I have done it again. / One year in every ten / I manage it -- ." Her first suicide attempt was at age twenty, during the summer of 1953, and she worked backward and forward from this center. She sometimes says she was ten when her father died, but actually she had just turned eight years old when he died on November 2, 1940. Her birthday is October 27, and her father was dying then, so it is not strange that an eight-year-old would connect the two events and feel a certain guilt. Especially since, as Plath suggests in a number of places including "Electra on Azalea Path," her mother quite naturally tried to soften the loss to her children: "My mother said; you died like any man. / How shall I age into that state of mind?" To an eight-year-old child, who felt the loss of her father but didn't quite understand it, his disappearance followed by what might have seemed a conspiracy of silence would have been both strange and suspicious. Why was no one saying anything to her about her father? Was it because his death was somehow her fault? [49. In 1954 Plath described to a friend her reaction to her father's death. "He was an autocrat. I adored and despised him, and I probably wished many times that he were dead. When he obliged me and died, I imagined that I had killed him." Quoted in Nancy Hunter Steiner, A Closer Look at Ariel: A Memory of Sylvia Plath (New York: Harper's Magazine Press, 1973); p. 45.] In any case, Plath makes her father's death fall a third of the way through her life, and her own first suicide attempt marks the second third. That her final and successful suicide attempt came at age thirty does suggest that to some extent she became caught up in her own systematizing. Of course, the actual reasons for seeing suicide as a solution go far beyond what some readers of Plath's poetry have been tempted to call a need to reenact in life what one has structured in art.

    - from Sylvia Plath: A Literary Life by Linda Wagner-Martin; pp. 110-111: Plath's neatly-typed letters throughout her marriage are illustrative of that well-regulated behavior. Whether she was writing to Theodore Roethke about a possible teaching post for Hughes, even though it was Plath herself who was so moved by Roethke's poetry, or to John Lehmann with submissions for both of them to London Magazine, or to Brian Cox about Critical Quarterly, she appeared to be the tidy and competent secretary she had so feared becoming. Unfortunately, as we have seen, some of her earlier poems gave off the same aura of starched neatness -- with any recognizable emotion kept at a distance. The truly dramatic changes between those college-era poems, like "Circus in Three Rings" and "Two Lovers and a Beachcomber by the Real Sea," and such late poems as "Applicant," "Purdah," and "Lady Lazarus," were both shocking and inexplicable.

    - from A Disturbance in Mirrors by Pamela J. Annas; pp. 109-110 [The Late Poems]: This dual consciousness of self, the perception of self as both subject and object, is characteristic of the literature of marginalized or oppressed classes. It is characteristic of proletarian writers in their (admittedly sometimes dogmatic) perception of their own relation to a decadent past, a dispossessed present, and a utopian future. It is characteristic of black American writers. W.E.B. DuBois makes a statement very similar in substance to Jameson's in The Souls of Black Folk, and certainly the basic existential condition of Ellison's invisible man is his dual consciousness, which only toward the end of that novel becomes a means to freedom of action rather than paralysis. It is true of contemporary women writers, such novelists as Doris Lessing, Margaret Atwood, and Maxine Hong Kingston, and of such poets as Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, and Marge Piercy. In some sense it is more a long-standing characteristic of American literature than of any other major world literature, for each immigrant group, however great its desire for assimilation into the American power structure, at least initially possessed this dual consciousness. Finally, a dialectical perception of self as both subject and object, as both worker and commodity, of self in relation to past and future as well as present, is characteristic of revolutionary literature, whether the revolution is primarily political or cultural.
    Sylvia Plath has this dialectical awareness of self as both subject and object in particular relation to the society in which she lived. The problem for her, and this is perhaps the problem of Cold War America, is in the second aspect of a dialectical consciousness: an awareness of oneself in significant relation to past and future. The first person narrator of what is probably her best short story, "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams," is a clerk/typist in a psychiatric clinic who describes herself as a "dream connoisseur," who keeps her own personal record of all dreams which pass through her office, and who longs to look at the oldest record book the Psychoanalytic Institute possesses. "This dream book was spanking new the day I was born," she says, and elsewhere makes the connection even clearer: "the clinic started thirty-three years ago -- the year of my birth oddly enough."* This connection suggests the way in which Plath uses history and views herself in relation to it. The landscape of her late works is a contemporary social landscape. It goes back in time to encompass such significant historical events as the Rosenberg trial and execution -- around which the opening chapter of The Bell Jar is structured -- and of course it encompasses, is perhaps obsessed with, the major historical event of her time, the Second World War. But social history, reference to actual historical events, seems to stop for Plath where her own life starts, and is replaced at that point by a mythic timeless past populated by creatures from folk tale, fairy tale and classical mythology. This is not surprising, since as a woman she had scant affirmation of her part in shaping history. Why should she feel any relation to it? But more crucially, there is in Sylvia Plath's work no imagination of the future, no utopian or even anti-utopian consciousness. There is a dialectical consciousness in her poetry of the self as simultaneously object and subject, but she was unable to develop in her particular social context a consciousness of herself in relation to a past and future beyond her own lifetime.

    * Sylvia Plath, "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams," in Sylvia Plath: Johnny Panic and The Bible of Dreams/Short Stories, Prose, and Diary Excerpts (New York: Harper & Row, 1978), pp. 153, 159. First published in Atlantic (September 1968), pp. 54-60.

    - from A Disturbance in Mirrors: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath by Pamela J. Annas; pp. 104-105:
    While a painfully acute sense of the depersonalization and fragmentation of 1950s America is characteristic of the late poems, three of them describe particularly well the social landscape within which the "I" of Sylvia Plath's poems is trapped: "The Applicant," "Cut," and "The Munich Mannequins." ["The Social Context" was originally published in slightly different form as "The Self in the World: The Social Context of Sylvia Plath's Late Poems" in Women's Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 7, nos. 1/2 (Winter 1980), pp. 171-83. Reprinted in Linda Wagner, ed., Critical Essays on Sylvia Plath (Boston: L. K. Hall, 1984), pp. 130-39.] The recurring metaphors of fragmentation and reification -- the abstraction of the individual -- in Plath's late poetry are socially and historically based. They are images of Nazi concentration camps, of "fire and bombs through the roof" ("The Applicant"), of cannons, of trains, of "wars, wars, wars" ("Daddy"). They are images of kitchens, iceboxes, adding machines, typewriters, and the depersonalization of hospitals. The sea and the moon are still central images, but in the poems from 1961 on they take on a harsher quality. "The moon, also, is merciless," Plath writes in "Elm."
    One of the more bitter poems in Ariel is "The Applicant" (October 11, 1962), a portrait of marriage in contemporary western culture. However, the "courtship" and "wedding" in the poem seem to represent not only male/female relations but human relations in general. That the applicant also can be seen as applying for a job or buying a product suggests a close connection between the capitalist economic system, the patriarchal family structure, and the general depersonalization of human relations. Somehow all interaction between people, and especially that between men and women, given the history of the use of women as items of barter, is conditioned by the ethics and assumptions of a bureaucratized market place. However this system got started, both men and women are implicated in its perpetuation. As in many of Plath's poems, one feels in reading "The Applicant" that Plath sees herself and her imaged personae as not merely caught in -- victims of -- this situation, but in some sense culpable as well. In "The Applicant," the poet is speaking directly to the reader, addressed as "you" throughout. So we, too, are implicated, for we are also potential "applicants."
    In the first stanza of "The Applicant," as in the beginning of "Event" (May 21, 1962), people are described as crippled and as dismembered pieces of bodies. Thus the theme of dehumanization begins the poem. Moreover, the pieces described here are not even flesh, but "a glass eye, false teeth or a crutch, / A brace or a hook, / Rubber breasts or a rubber crotch." We are already so implicated in a sterile and machine-dominated culture that we are likely part artifact and sterile ourselves. One is reminded of the "clean pink plastic limb" which the surgeon in "The Surgeon at 2 A.M." complacently attaches to his patient. One is also reminded of Chief Bromden's conviction, in Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, written at about the same time as "The Applicant," that those people who are integrated into society are just collections of wheels and cogs, smaller replicas of a smoothly functioning larger social machine. "The ward is a factory for the Combine," Bromden thinks, "something that came all twisted different is now a functioning, adjusted component, a credit to the whole outfit and a marvel to behold. Watch him sliding across the land with a welded grin." [Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (New York: Viking Press, 1962), p. 38]
    In stanza two of "The Applicant," Plath describes the emptiness which characterizes the applicant and which is another version of the roboticized activity of Kesey's Adjusted Man. Are there "stitches to show something's missing?" she asks. The applicant's hand is empty, so she provides "a hand"

    To fill it and willing
    To bring teacups and roll away headaches
    And do whatever you tell it.
    Will you marry it?

    - from Sylvia Plath: Collected Poems (Edited by Ted Hughes); p. 118 [The Beekeeper’s Daughter (1959)]:
    The Beekeeper’s Daughter

    A garden of mouthings. Purple, scarlet-speckled, black
    The great corollas dilate, peeling back their silks.
    Their musk encroaches, circle after circle,
    A well of scents almost too dense to breathe in.
    Hieratical in your frock coat, maestro of the bees,
    You move among the many-breasted hives,

    My heart under your foot, sister of a stone.

    Trumpet-throats open to the beaks of birds.
    The Golden Rain Tree drips its powders down.
    In these little boudoirs streaked with orange and red
    The anthers nod their heads, potent as kings
    To father dynasties. The air is rich.
    Here is a queenship no mother can contest—

    A fruit that’s death to taste: dark flesh, dark parings.

    In burrows narrow as a finger, solitary bees
    Keep house among the grasses. Kneeling down
    I set my eye to a hole-mouth and meet an eye
    Round, green, disconsolate as a tear.
    Father, bridegroom, in this Easter egg
    Under the coronal of sugar roses

    The queen bee marries the winter of your year.

    - from The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes by Janet Malcolm; pp. 7-8 [Part One]: Life, as we all know, does not reliably offer – as art does – a second (and a third and a thirtieth) chance to tinker with a problem, but Ted Hughes’s history seems to be uncommonly bare of the moments of mercy that allow one to undo or redo one’s actions and thus feel that life isn’t entirely tragic. Whatever Hughes might have undone or redone in his relationship to Sylvia Plath, the opportunity was taken from him when she committed suicide, in February of 1963, by putting her head in a gas oven as her two small children slept in a bedroom nearby, which she had sealed against gas fumes, and where she had placed mugs of milk and a plate of bread for them to find when they awoke. Plath and Hughes were not living together at the time of her death. They had been married for six years – she was thirty and he was thirty-two when she died – and had separated the previous fall in a turbulent way. There was another woman. It is a situation that many young married couples find themselves in – one that perhaps more couples find themselves in than don’t – but it is a situation that ordinarily doesn’t last: the couple either reconnects or dissolves. Life goes on. The pain and bitterness and exciting awfulness of sexual jealousy and sexual guilt recede and disappear. People grow older. They forgive themselves and each other, and may even come to realize that what they are forgiving themselves and each other for is youth.
    But a person who dies at thirty in the middle of a messy separation remains forever fixed in the mess. To the readers of her poetry and her biography, Sylvia Plath will always be young and in a rage over Hughes’s unfaithfulness. She will never reach the age when the tumults of young adulthood can be looked back upon with rueful sympathy and without anger and vengefulness.

    - from A Disturbance in Mirrors: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath by Pamela J. Annas; p. 5 [Reflections]:
    Plath’s fascination with mirror imagery began early and consciously, perhaps as a way of imaging her own ambivalence and sense of division. Her senior honors thesis at Smith College, written in 1954-1955, the year following her suicide attempt and recovery, was called “The Magic Mirror: A Study of the Double in Two of Dostoevsky’s Novels.” In the introduction, she writes:
    the appearance of the Double is an aspect of man’s eternal desire to solve the enigma of his own identity. By seeking to read the riddle of his soul in its myriad manifestations, man is brought face to face with his own mysterious mirror image, an image which he confronts with mingled curiosity and fear. This simultaneous attraction and repulsion arises from the inherently ambivalent nature of the Double, which may embody not only good, creative characteristics, but also evil, destructive ones. [1. Sylvia Plath “The Magic Mirror,” from the Sylvia Plath manuscript collection, The Lilly Library, Indiana University, p. 1.]
    After discussing examples of the double in Poe, Stevenson, and Wilde, she remarks: “The confrontation of the Double in these instances usually results in a duel which ends in insanity or death for the original hero.” [2. Ibid., p. 2.] Plath bases her study of the image of the double in Dostoevsky on Otto Rank’s work and other investigations into the schizophrenic personality. Her discussion of motifs in The Double might be a prescient description of motifs in her own subsequent poetry; she writes that the motifs that “illustrate Godyakin’s dilemma . . . include the repetition of mirror imagery, identification with animals, and a simultaneous fear of murder and desire for death.” [3. Ibid., p. 7.] Plath concludes her 60-pages thesis with these remarks:
    It is Godyakin’s inability to acknowledge his inner conflict and Ivan’s inability to reconcile his inner conflict which result in severe schizophrenia for both. . . . Dostoevsky implies that recognition of our various mirror images and reconciliation with them will save us from disintegration. This reconciliation does not mean a simple or monolithic resolution of conflict, but rather a creative acknowledgement of the fundamental duality of man; it involves a constant courageous acceptance of the eternal paradoxes within the universe and within ourselves. [4. Ibid., pp. 59-60.]

    - from Ariel: The Restored Edition (A Facsimile of Plath’s Manuscript, Reinstating Her Original Selection and Arrangement by Sylvia Plath [Foreword by Frieda Hughes]; pp. 29-30 [Ariel and other poems]:
    The Night Dances

    A smile fell in the grass.

    And how will your night dances
    Lose themselves. In mathematics?

    Such pure leaps and spirals—
    Surely they travel

    The world forever, I shall not entirely
    Sit emptied of beauties, the gift

    Of your small breath, the drenched grass
    Smell of your sleeps, lilies, lilies.

    Their flesh bears no relation.
    Cold folds of ego, the calla,

    And the tiger, embellishing itself –
    Spots, and a spread of hot petals.

    The comets
    Have such a space to cross,

    Such coldness, forgetfulness.
    So your gestures flake off—

    Warm and human, then their pink light
    Bleeding and peeling

    Through the black amnesias of heaven.
    Why am I given

    These lamps, these planets
    Falling like blessings, like flakes

    Six-sided, white
    On my eyes, my lips, my hair

    Touching and melting.

    - from Sylvia Plath: A Biography by Linda Wagner-Martin; p. 88: Some of Norton's reading complemented hers: they both liked Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and Lawrence's Women in Love. But Dick also enjoyed contradicting Sylvia, as when he wrote a scathing parody of one of her favorite authors, Virginia Woolf.

    - from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath; pp. 65-69 (Chapter Six): Then we kissed and hugged a while and I felt a little better. I drank the rest of the Dubonnet and sat cross-legged at the end of Buddy’s bed and asked for a comb. I began to comb my hair down over my face so Buddy couldn’t see it. Suddenly I said, ‘Have you ever had an affair with anyone, Buddy?’
    I don’t know what made me say it, the words just popped out of my mouth. I never thought for one minute that Buddy Willard would have an affair with anyone. I expected him to say, ‘No, I have been saving myself for when I get married to somebody pure and a virgin like you.’
    But Buddy didn’t say anything, he just turned pink.
    ‘Well, have you?’
    ‘What do you mean, an affair?’ Buddy asked then in a hollow voice.
    ‘You know, have you ever gone to bed with anyone?’ I kept rhythmically combing the hair down over the side of my face nearest to Buddy, and I could feel the little electric filaments clinging to my hot cheeks and I wanted to shout, ‘Stop, stop, don’t tell me, don’t say anything.’ But I didn’t, I just kept still.
    ‘Well, yes, I have,’ Buddy said finally.
    I almost fell over. From the first night Buddy Willard kissed me and said I must go out with a lot of boys, he made me feel I was much more sexy and experienced than he was and that everything he did like hugging and kissing and petting was simply what I made him feel like doing out of the blue, he couldn’t help it and didn’t know how it came about.
    Now I saw he had only been pretending all this time to be so innocent.
    ‘Tell me about it,’ I combed my hair slowly over and over, feeling the teeth of the comb dig into my cheek at every stroke. ‘Who was it?’
    Buddy seemed relieved I wasn’t angry. He even seemed relieved to have somebody to tell about how he was seduced.
    Of course, somebody had seduced Buddy, Buddy hadn’t started it and it wasn’t really his fault. It was this waitress at the hotel he worked at as a busboy the last summer on Cape Cod. Buddy had noticed her staring at him queerly and shoving her breasts up against him in the confusion of the kitchen, so finally one day he asked her what the trouble was and she looked him straight in the eye, and said, ‘I want you.’
    ‘Served up with parsley?’ Buddy had laughed innocently.
    ‘No,’ she had said. ‘Some night.’
    And that’s how Buddy had lost his pureness and his virginity.
    At first I thought he must have slept with the waitress only the once, but when I asked how many times, just to make sure, he said he couldn’t remember but a couple of times a week for the rest of the summer. I multiplied three by ten and got thirty, which seemed beyond all reason.
    After that something in me just froze up.
    Back at college I started asking a senior here and a senior there what they would do if a boy they knew suddenly told them he’d slept thirty times with some slutty waitress one summer, smack in the middle of knowing them. But these seniors said most boys were like that and you couldn’t honestly accuse them of anything until you were at least pinned or engaged to be married.
    Actually, it wasn’t the idea of Buddy sleeping with somebody that bothered me. I mean I’d read about all sorts of people sleeping with each other, and if it had been any other boy I would merely have asked him the most interesting details, and maybe gone out and slept with somebody myself just to even things up, and then thought no more about it.
    What I couldn’t stand was Buddy’s pretending I was so sexy and he was so pure, when all the time he’d been having an affair with that tarty waitress and must have felt like laughing in my face.
    ‘What does your mother think about this waitress?’ I asked Buddy that week-end.
    Buddy was amazingly close to his mother. He was always quoting what she said about the relationship between a man and a woman, and I knew Mrs Willard was a real fanatic about virginity for men and women both. When I first went to her house for supper she gave me a queer, shrewd, searching look, and I knew she was trying to tell whether I was a virgin or not.
    Just as I thought, Buddy was embarrassed. ‘Mother asked me about Gladys,’ he admitted.
    ‘Well, what did you say?’
    ‘I said Gladys was free, white and twenty-one.’
    Now I knew Buddy would never talk to his mother as rudely as that for my sake. 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.
    Every time I tried to argue, Buddy would say his mother still got pleasure out of his father and wasn’t that wonderful for people their age, it must mean she really knew what was what.
    Well, I had just decided to ditch Buddy Willard for once and for all, not because he’d slept with that waitress but because he didn’t have the honest guts to admit it straight off to everybody and face up to it as part of his character, when the phone in the hall rang and somebody said in a little knowing singsong, ‘It’s for you, Esther, it’s from Boston.’
    I could tell right away something must be wrong, because Buddy was the only person I knew in Boston, and he never called me long distance because it was so much more expensive than letters. Once, when he had a message he wanted me to get almost immediately, he went all round his entry at medical school asking if anybody was driving up to my college that weekend, and sure enough, somebody was, so he gave them a note for me and I got it the same day. He didn’t even have to pay for a stamp.
    It was Buddy all right. He told me that the annual fall chest X-ray showed he had caught TB and he was going off on a scholarship for medical students who caught TB to a TB place in the Adirondacks. Then he said I hadn’t written since that last week-end and he hoped nothing was the matter between us, and would I please try to write him at least once a week and come to visit him at this TB place in my Christmas vacation?
    I had never heard Buddy so upset. He was very proud of his perfect health and was always telling me it was psychosomatic when my sinuses blocked up and I couldn’t breathe. I thought this an odd attitude for a doctor to have and perhaps he should study to be a psychiatrist instead, but of course I never came right out and said so.
    I told Buddy how sorry I was about the TB and promised to write, but when I hung up I didn’t feel one bit sorry. I only felt a wonderful relief.
    I thought the TB might just be a punishment for living the kind of double life Buddy lived and feeling so superior to people. And I thought how convenient it would be now I didn’t have to announce to everybody at college I had broken off with Buddy and start the boring business of blind dates all over again.
    I simply told everyone that Buddy had TB and we were practically engaged, and when I stayed in to study on Saturday nights they were extremely kind to me because they thought I was so brave, working the way I did just to hide a broken heart.

    - from Sylvia Plath: A Literary Life by Linda Wagner-Martin; pp. 102-103 (Part Two/(Chapter) 9 – Plath’s Poems about Women]: To be considered along with these autobiographical emphases is the pattern Sandra Gilbert finds that connects “Three Women,” or “Three Voices” as it was originally titled, with the three women characters in Virginia Woolf’s novel, The Waves. With some remarkable similarities between the language of Susan, Rhoda and Jinny and Plath’s three speakers, and with knowledge of the fact that she much admired and loved Woolf’s work, Gilbert’s point is plausible. [28. Sandra M. Gilbert, “In Yeats’ House: The Death and Resurrection of Sylvia Plath,” Critical Essays on Sylva Plath, ed. Linda W. Wagner, pp. 217-18.] It also is comforting to see that a woman writer would turn to another woman writer for imaginative help in creating effective and poetically real female characters. As a composite of Plath’s hospital experience, her reading life, and her own emotional understanding of becoming a mother, “Three Women” is the most impressive long poem Plath had written, or would write.

    - pp. 69-70 [Part One/(Chapter) 7 – Defining Health]: Finally, the faceless speaker (brought to the reader’s consciousness in the tautly rhyming two-part line, “I have no face, I have wanted to efface myself”) seems to become in fact the metaphor she had earlier used to express her lack of volition: “a cut-paper shadow.” Ostensibly a poem about recovery and a yearning for health, “Tulips” is filled with contradictory, and disturbing, images. (One recalls Plath’s matter-of-fact journal line, “Writing is my health.”) [2. Sylvia Plath, Journal, p. 164.]
    Ted Hughes states in a 1995 essay that the spring of 1961 brought Plath to her real voice (“Tulips” and “In Plaster” were each written March 18, 1961, and were followed ten days later by “I Am Vertical”). His theory is that she had found that voice in 1959, with her writing of the Johnny Panic story, but that the complexities of her life – “change of country, home-building, birth and infancy of her first child” [3. Ted Hughes, “Sylvia Plath’s Collected Poems and The Bell Jar,” Winter Pollen, p. 467.] – interfered so that it was not until 1961 that she was able to resume that voice in her work. Hughes’s focus in this essay is on Plath’s very rapid writing of The Bell Jar, which he claims she wrote much of in the spring of 1961. He comments on what he sees as her recurring theme: “That mythic scheme of violent initiation, in which the old self dies and the new self is born, or the false dies and the true is born, or the child dies and the adult is born, or the base animal dies and the spiritual self is born . . .” [4. Ibid., p. 468.] While he connects this theme with its use in the writing of D. H. Lawrence and Dostoevsky, he also links it with Christianity.

    - from Sylvia Plath: Collected Poems [Edited by Ted Hughes]; p. 62 [The Everlasting Monday (1957)]:
    The Everlasting Monday

    Thou shalt have an everlasting
    Monday and stand in the moon.

    The moon’s man stands in his shell,
    Bent under a bundle
    Of sticks. The light falls chalk and cold
    Upon our bedspread.
    His teeth are chattering among the leprous
    Peaks and craters of those extinct volcanoes.

    He also against black frost
    Would pick sticks, would not rest
    Until his own lit room outshone
    Sunday’s ghost of sun;
    Now works his hell of
    Mondays in the moon’s ball,
    Fireless, seven chill seas chained to his ankle.

    - from Sylvia Plath: A Biography by Connie Ann Kirk; pp. 85-86 [Chapter 4 - THE ACADEMIC LIFE (1950-1955)/RETURN TO SMITH]: In the spring semester of her senior year, 1955, Sylvia went back to Smith early in January and entered the infirmary with a sinus infection that kept her there for a week. During this stay, she wrote five poems and held court with visitors. One of these was a man sent by Alfred Kazin, an editor named Peter Davison from Harcourt, Brace who asked her to keep his publishing house in mind should she ever complete a novel. Before classes began, Sylvia dropped off her thesis to be typed; it was titled "The Magic Mirror: A Study of the Double in Two of Dostoevsky's Novels." Her adviser, Professor Gibian, called it a masterpiece. She also sent out the new poems she had written to the New Yorker. Her classes during her last semester at Smith were: Shakespeare, Intermediate German, Twentieth-Century American Novel, a one-hour independent study in Theory and Practice of Poetics, and Honors hours. Vogue sent her notice that she reached the finals in the Prix de Paris, which meant that she next had to write a ten-page composition on Americana. If anyone thought Sylvia might allow herself an easy last semester of "senioritis," enjoying her youth and last weeks of college by not working quite as hard, they were badly mistaken. She did, however, decide to drop German, which she did not need to graduate, to allow her more time to focus on her writing. Ironically, German was the subject her father had taught many years earlier at Boston College and that her mother once taught in high school.

    - from Sylvia Plath: A Literary Life by Linda Wagner-Martin; p. 139 [(Part Two)/12 - Sylvia Plath, The Poet and her Writing Life]: There is some sense in which the fact that Hughes published a collection of her short stories and essays, with his long prefatory introduction, has been limiting. He indicates that Plath's ambition to write short stories for both The New Yorker and The Ladies' Home Journal baffles him; the tone of his essay about her fiction writing suggests that he is also baffled by her even wanting to write prose. [13. Ted Hughes, "Introduction," Johnny Panic, pp. 12-13, 16-18.] But he does not give enough credence to the fact that Plath's continuing model for prose was the fiction of Virginia Woolf, that most poetic of modernists. (As she had written in her journal several years earlier, "What is my voice? Woolfish, alas, but tough.") [14. Sylvia Plath, Journals, p. 186.] For Plath, as for Woolf, there was little difference between a prose paragraph or a long-lined poem stanza. The integrity of the work's rhythm remained the determining principle for organization.

    - pp. 117-118: As has been mentioned, Sandra Gilbert links the voice of many of Plath's late poems with the women's voices in The Waves (in connection with Plath's imagery of ascent she describes Rhoda's "ascending" images, for example, and that character's notion of becoming "incandescent"), but she finds a more significant correspondence between Plath's work and the late poems of Yeats, particularly his "To Dorothy Wellesley." There he writes of Wellesley being no "common" woman but rather one awaiting visitation of the "Proud Furies each with her torch on high." Gilbert also cites Yeats' poem "He and She" as a possible source for Plath's repeated phrase "I am I," quoting the lines

    She sings as the moon sings:
    "I am I, am I;
    The greater grows my light
    The further that I fly."
    [32. Sandra M. Gilbert, "In Yeats' House," Critical Essays on Sylvia Plath, pp. 204-22.]

    The finishing lines of that sextain - "All creation shivers / With that sweet cry" - are in the poet-persona's voice rather than the woman's. The woman artist, so intent on extending her reach as she confirms her self identity, prompts the imagery of both ascent and light, and suggests some possible reinscription on Plath's part in her poem "Fever 103[degrees]."

    - from Sylvia Plath: The Critical Heritage (Edited by Linda W. Wagner); p. 1: In the early 1960s, when her first poetry collection, The Colossus and Other Poems, and her novel, The Bell Jar, appeared, most criticism was highly encouraging. Critics recognized a sure new voice, speaking in tightly wrought patterns and conveying a definite sense of control. The more traditional critics responded to Plath's work with enthusiasm. Plath was obviously a well-educated, disciplined writer who usually avoided the sentimentalities of some female writers. She wrote tidy poems, reminiscent of those by Richard Eberhart, Karl Shapiro, Randall Jarrell, and Richard Wilbur. She wrote fiction -- at least part of The Bell Jar -- with a wry voice somewhat like that of J. D. Salinger. In retrospect, that same taut humor was evident in many of the poems from The Colossus.

    - from Sylvia Plath: A Biography by Linda Wagner-Martin; p. 157: Later in the spring [1959], Sylvia took another part-time job, this time as secretary to the head of the Sanskrit Department at Harvard. She relearned speedwriting and took comfort in the regularity of her hours and duties. She also was reading widely: Freud, Faulkner, Tolstoi, Ainu tales, the Bible (especially the Book of Job), lives of saints. She was fascinated by accounts of St. Therese, who was sanctified after receiving visits from the Virgin. Sylvia's notes include a long description of Therese's many influenza-like illnesses with high fevers, her hatred of the cold, her fears before the visitations -- tribulations which had echoes in Plath's own life. They also include a description of the earlier St. Teresa, who founded the Discalced (barefooted) Carmelite order in sixteenth-century Spain, and the nuns' early rising, fasting, meditation, and consistent gaiety (and Teresa's own pragmatic wit and stability).

    - from Sylvia Plath: The Critical Heritage (Edited by Linda W Wagner); p. 104: Her second novel, she assured her mother, 'will show that same world as seen through the eyes of health.' Ingratitude was 'not the basis of Sylvia's personality'; the second novel, presumably, would have been one long, ingratiating, fictionalized thank-you note to the world. Of course the publisher is right to publish; but since the persons who may be slightly scorched are still alive, why eight years?
    The novel itself is no firebrand. It's a slight, charming, sometimes funny and mildly witty, at moments tolerably harrowing 'first' novel, just the sort of clever book a Smith summa cum laude (which she was) might have written if she weren't given to literary airs. From the beginning our expectations of scandal and startling revelation are disappointed by a modesty of scale and ambition and a jaunty temperateness of tone. The voice is straight out of the 1950's: politely disenchanted, wholesome, yes, wholesome, but never cloying, immediately attractive, nicely confused by it all, incorrigibly truthtelling; in short, the kind of kid we liked then, the best product of our best schools. The hand of Salinger lay heavy on her.

    - from Sylvia Plath: Collected Poems (Edited by Ted Hughes); pp. 116-117 [Electra on Azalea Path (1959)]:
    Electra on Azalea Path

    The day you died I went into the dirt,
    Into the lightless hibernaculum
    Where bees, striped black and gold, sleep out the blizzard
    Like hieratic stones, and the ground is hard.
    It was good for twenty years, that wintering --
    As if you had never existed, as if I came
    God-fathered into the world from my mother's belly:
    Her wide bed wore the stain of divinity.
    I had nothing to do with guilt or anything
    When I wormed back under my mother's heart.

    Small as a doll in my dress of innocence
    I lay dreaming your epic, image by image.
    Nobody died or withered on that stage.
    Everything took place in a durable whiteness.
    The day I woke, I woke on Churchyard Hill.
    I found your name, I found your bones and all
    Enlisted in a cramped necropolis,
    Your speckled stone askew by an iron fence.

    In this charity ward, this poorhouse, where the dead
    Crowd foot to foot, head to head, no flower
    Breaks the soil. This is Azalea Path.
    A field of burdock opens to the south.
    Six feet of yellow gravel cover you.
    The artificial red sage does not stir
    In the basket of plastic evergreens they put
    At the headstone next to yours, nor does it rot,
    Although the rains dissolve a bloody dye:
    The ersatz petals drip, and they drip red.

    Another kind of redness bothers me:
    The day your slack sail drank my sister's breath
    The flat sea purpled like that evil cloth
    My mother unrolled at your last homecoming.

    I borrow the stilts of an old tragedy.
    The truth is, one late October, at my birth-cry
    A scorpion stung its head, an ill-starred thing;
    My mother dreamed you face down in the sea.

    The stony actors poise and pause for breath.
    I brought my love to bear, and then you died.
    It was the gangrene ate you to the bone
    My mother said; you died like any man.
    How shall I age into that state of mind?
    I am the ghost of an infamous suicide,
    My own blue razor rusting in my throat.
    O pardon the one who knocks for pardon at
    Your gate, father -- your hound-bitch, daughter, friend.
    It was my love that did us both to death.

    - p. 186 [from Three Women: A Poem for Three Voices (March 1962)]:

    I shall meditate upon normality.
    I shall meditate upon my little son.
    He does not walk. He does not speak a word.
    He is still swaddled in white bands.
    But he is pink and perfect. He smiles so frequently.
    I have papered his room with big roses,
    I have painted little hearts on everything.

    I do not will him to be exceptional.
    It is the exception that interests the devil.
    It is the exception that climbs the sorrowful hill
    Or sits in the desert and hurts his mother's heart.
    I will him to be common,
    To love me as I love him,
    And to marry what he wants and where he will.

    - from Sylvia Plath: A Literary Life by Linda Wagner-Martin; pp. 106-108: Sylvia Plath would have been the first to admit that there were multiple roles for women during the 1960s besides mothering or not mothering. In the age of professionalism, or incipient careerism, a woman would have been expected to have identities other than her status as a bearer of children. Just as so many of Plath's journal entries dealt with her future work, and the conundrum of which work a talented woman writer, artist, and teacher should take up, so many of her poems deal with the varieties of achieving women. It is also clear in her journals that she was intentionally searching for women writers to emulate. She regularly mentions Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Stevie Smith, Willa Cather, Lillian Hellman, Louise Bogan, Adrienne Cecile Rich (often with some asperity, since Rich was her contemporary and by having won the Yale Younger Poets competition, already headed toward an important career as poet). [1. Sylvia Plath, Journals, pp. 32, 54-5, 152, 164, 186, 196, 211-12, 217, 310, 316-17, 321.] In fact, Liz Yorke has concluded that the journal entries "make it clear that Plath made a self-conscious decision to study women. Her critique of the ideology of the feminine; her critical consciousness of women's emotional, erotic and economic loyalty and their subservience to men can be shown as developing continuously from this time [1958]." [2. Liz York, Impertinent Voices, Subversive Strategies in Contemporary Women's Poetry, 1991, p. 66.]
    Unfortunately, by the time Plath had freed herself from her apprenticeship modes and was writing in what seemed to be her true voice, she was obsessed with rage at what she saw as the betrayal of their life together - and her opportunity to become a good writer - by her husband. It was barely possible to scrape out time to write during these years with two very young children, yet Plath had. She had finished The Bell Jar and "Three Women," she had worked on several short stories that satisfied her, and many, many poems. Writing within a family household was possible, if difficult. But she was accustomed to difficulties. Plath was not so oblivious to how hard maintaining her writing schedule was, however, as to believe she could write effectively if there were no other adult in that household. The years had made her a pragmatist.
    Just as we have seen that she created a mythic structure from her comparison of her own fertile womanhood with the barrenness of other more fashionable women, so it seems plausible that she would emblematize the realm of patriarchal power that not only minded babies but accepted poems, scheduled BBC readings, and wrote reviews as a man of a certain type. For the "old boy network" that was determining her fate as a writer, particularly in England where she had no connections except through her still-outsider husband, she had only anger and even contempt. Her quasi-flirtation with Al Alvarez was prompted at least in part by his power both to accept her work and to review it, and there was frequently a sexual element in her dealings with other established literary men on the British scene. In some ways, the fact that Hughes had begun an affair - while enraging on its own terms - also may have been catalytic in freeing her to express her deep-seated anger against the controlling and male-dominated literary world. Again, York sees the male presence in so many of what can also be read as Plath's "strong woman" poems as more indefinite than the figure of a disloyal husband: "Hatred against men begins to fuel the vitriolic stance of many poems." [3. Ibid.]
    Two situations illustrate her frustration at being a woman writer in the British literary world. The first is the narrative of her meeting Alvarez in 1960. Lupercal, Hughes's second poem collection, had just appeared. Admiring it greatly, Alvarez phoned and suggested that he and Ted take their infants for a walk, thereby having a chance to talk about poetry. When he arrived at the flat, Alvarez recalled that Mrs. Hughes struck him as "briskly American: bright, clean, competent, like a young woman in a cookery advertisement, friendly and yet rather distant." He pays small attention to her. But as Hughes is getting the baby's carriage out, Plath turns to Alvarez,

    "I'm so glad you picked that poem," she said. "It's one of my favorites but no one else seemed to like it."
    For a moment I went completely blank; I didn't know what she was talking about.
    She noticed and helped me out.
    "The one you put in The Observer a year ago. About the factory at night."
    "For Christ's sake, Sylvia Plath." It was my turn to gush. "I'm sorry. It was a lovely poem."
    "Lovely" wasn't the right word, but what else do you say to a bright young housewife? . . . [4. A. Alvarez, The Savage God, p. 8.]

    The apparent inability to equate "housewife" and "young mother" -- not to mention, perhaps, "American" -- with "poet" created little more than a minor social gaffe here, but Plath's life was filled with occasions when she was the quiet American to her husband's ever-growing reputation as one of England's brightest rising stars. At a Faber & Faber cocktail party, she is called out into the hall to witness Hughes's having his picture taken in the company of Stephen Spender, T. S. Eliot, Louis MacNiece, and W. H. Auden. There was no question that Auden would remember having a brief conference with the Smith coed Sylvia Plath, yet now he is standing only six feet from that girl's poet spouse. As the five men look into the camera, sherry glasses in hand, there is an air of self-congratulation that Plath would have found difficult to stomach. [5. See photo in Wagner-Martin, Sylvia Plath, photo section after p. 104.]
    As he recounted that first meeting, Alvarez had the conscience to admit, "I was embarrassed not to have known who she was. She seemed embarrassed to have reminded me, and also depressed." [6. Alvarez, Savage God, p. 8.]

    - p. 146 [(Part Two)/13 - The Usurpation of Sylvia Plath's Narrative: Hughes's Birthday Letters]: When Plath's Collected Poems won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1982, that award re-established the importance of her writing and helped to cut through the sense of legend that the first publication of Ariel in 1965, two years after her suicide, had initiated. Those Ariel poems, important as they were, were so immediately, so intimately, tied to her death that readers found it difficult to comprehend such poems as "Lady Lazarus," "Daddy," "Words," "Edge" and the others without remembering her end.
    The same phenomenon occurred after her novel, The Bell Jar, was published in the States in 1971. (The novel had appeared in England, under the signature of "Victoria Lucas," just a few weeks before Plath's death in 1963 -- to good review and many comparisons with J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye; it was republished in England under Plath's name in 1966.) The delay of its US publication, however, made it something of a cult book. The Bell Jar, the novel that Plath thought ended happily, with Esther Greenwood's leaving the mental institution to return to college -- recovered, well, herself again -- also gained a last and final chapter in readers' imaginations: Plath's suicide had irrevocably rewritten that happy ending, and readers found the fictional character's recovery to be only a sad whistling in the dark, a keen reminder of the fragility of the human psyche.

    - from Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes by Margaret Dickie Uroff; p. 34: If Hughes introduced her to nature, she had made her own investigations into myths when she was at Smith, working on her senior thesis on the double in Dostoevsky.

    - from Sylvia Plath: Collected Poems [Edited by Ted Hughes]; pp. 222-224 (Daddy):


    You do not do, you do not do
    Any more, black shoe
    In which I have lived like a foot
    For thirty years, poor and white,
    Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

    Daddy, I have had to kill you.
    You died before I had time --
    Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
    Ghastly statue with one gray toe
    Big as a Frisco seal

    And a head in the freakish Atlantic
    Where it pours bean grean over blue
    In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
    I used to pray to recover you.
    Ach, du.

    In the German tongue, in the Polish town
    Scraped flat by the roller
    Of wars, wars, wars.
    But the name of the town is common.
    My Polack friend

    Says there are a dozen or two.
    So I never could tell where you
    Put your foot, your root,
    I never could talk to you.
    The tongue stuck in my jaw.

    It stuck in a barb wire snare.
    Ich, ich, ich, ich,
    I could hardly speak.
    I thought every German was you.
    And the language obscene

    An engine, an engine
    Chuffing me off like a Jew.
    A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
    I began to talk like a Jew.
    I think I may well be a Jew.

    The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
    Are not very pure or true.
    With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
    And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
    I may be a bit of a Jew.

    I have always been scared of you,
    With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
    And your neat mustache
    And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
    Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You--

    Not God but a swastika
    So black no sky could squeak through.
    Every woman adores a Fascist,
    The boot in the face, the brute
    Brute heart of a brute like you.

    You stand at the blackboard, daddy
    In the picture I have of you,
    A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
    But no less a devil for that, no not
    Any less the black man who

    Bit my pretty red heart in two.
    I was ten when they buried you.
    At twenty I tried to die
    And get back, back, back to you.
    I thought even the bones would do.

    But they pulled me out of the sack,
    And they stuck me together with glue.
    And then I knew what to do.
    I made a model of you,
    A man in black with a Meinkampf look

    And a love of the rack and the screw.
    And I said I do, I do.
    So daddy, I'm finally through.
    The black telephone's off at the root,
    The voices just can't worm through.

    If I've killed one man, I've killed two--
    The vampire who said he was you
    And drank my blood for a year,
    Seven years, if you want to know.
    Daddy, you can lie back now.

    There's a stake in your fat black heart
    And the villagers never liked you.
    They are dancing and stamping on you.
    They always knew it was you.
    Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.

    12 October 1962
    Last edited by HERO; 10-27-2012 at 06:38 AM.
    “Must get that Capel street library book renewed or they’ll write to
    Kearney, my garantor. Reincarnation: that’s the word.

    — Some people believe, he said, that we go on living in another body
    after death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived
    before on the earth thousands of years ago or some other planet. They say we
    have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives.

    The sluggish cream wound curdling spirals through her tea. Better remind
    her of the word: metempsychosis. An example would be better.”

    —from Ulysses by James Joyce

  2. #2
    when you see the booty Galen's Avatar
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    Reading her quotes online she seems very Ni with strong Se seeking. I say INFp just because some of her stuff sounds really E4. Not getting any real strong reads from her VI wise though, although INFp could be possible in that regard.

    "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."

    "Is there no way out of the mind?"

    "I do not love; I do not love anybody except myself. That is a rather shocking thing to admit. I have none of the selfless love of my mother. I have none of the plodding, practical love. . . . . 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."

    "Dying is an art.
    Like everything else,
    I do it exceptionally well.
    I do it so it feels like hell.
    I do it so it feels real.
    I guess you could say I have a call."

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    Breaking stereotypes Suz's Avatar
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    I could be wrong, but I didn't think she VI'd particularly INFp, in those pics anyway.

    However, I've always thought she was a little crazy and emo in her writing (and in her life for that matter), and I agree with what Galen said--so IEI (or maybe even EIE) isn't out of the question. I'd have to see what her demeanor is like in a video or something.
    Enneagram: 9w1 6w5 2w3 so/sx

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    when you see the booty Galen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WorkaholicsAnon View Post
    I could be wrong, but I didn't think she VI'd particularly INFp, in those pics anyway.

    However, I've always thought she was a little crazy and emo in her writing (and in her life for that matter), and I agree with what Galen said--so IEI (or maybe even EIE) isn't out of the question. I'd have to see what her demeanor is like in a video or something.
    It's not so much the fact that she's emo, it's more the way in which she presents her emo-ness that would lead me to think INFp. She is a rather weird VI though, I'll give you that.

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    Park's Avatar
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    Jesus christ, dude. Your posts are always 10+ yards long.
    “Whether we fall by ambition, blood, or lust, like diamonds we are cut with our own dust.”

    Quote Originally Posted by Gilly
    You've done yourself a huge favor developmentally by mustering the balls to do something really fucking scary... in about the most vulnerable situation possible.

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    she's basically like the gal who wrote twilight. that gal plays on teenage girl's sexual fear and drama, whereas sylvia plath plays on their suicide fantasies. both of them basically profited off of puberty despite different audiences.

    Last edited by heath; 10-28-2010 at 03:19 AM.

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    Haikus Beautiful sky's Avatar
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    Her poems are very characteristic descriptions of action in the Se sense.
    Last edited by Beautiful sky; 10-31-2010 at 02:10 AM.

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    An interesting woman. What I've noticed though is that everybody gets Sylvia Plath-ish through social isolation and ego-ness. The ego is innately negative and self-seeking. Of course it is, because it is the 'I' in all of us. It speaks of nothing but death, go-nowhere romance, and slow suicide- because the mind is literally trying to kill itself to reach spiritual nirvana. It's also quite hateful and critical of everything, such is the case of academic intellectualism (another form of egoplay)

    When she said that she did not love; I don't think she was speaking an actual truth about herself, but something that her ego believed- just like when she said 'Is there any way out of the mind?' Like most artists, all the thoughts the ego produces overwhelmed and paralyzed her.

    Why she met a tragic end (she killed herself, right?) is because she was unable to form a relationship, unable to get out of the 'I' and into the we. The 'I' egoic mind is innately evil and will always cause an individual to self-destruct. The 'we' is built upon relationship and will always cause an individual to blossom.

    I was depressed earlier and I wrote some Sylvia Plath-ish things. So I do understand the mindset I think. But looking back on it, I can see clearly how it was just an ego interplay. And me believing that it was true, how I believed it was real when it was just thoughts; just an idea- seems really insane to me now. When I connect with others, I'm just not like that at all. Even if I'm having a fight with somebody, I am lighter and happier.

  9. #9

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    As an artist, I think she's quite mediocre. Maybe that's too harsh. Let's say average. Her poetry is kinda yawn-worthy. Just really typical boring old romantic, slow suicide and death stuff. Nothing really interesting at all. And nothing clever or innovative either.

    As an artist, I would give myself a B+. B- on some days, C on bad days. But I give Ms. Plath's work a C- through and through. She takes the easy way out each time, and suffers the consequence each time. She doesn't learn or change or grow and everybody suffers for it. It's not that she's too dark. It's that she wants to be dark but can't be dark. She's constipated. It's that...she just clearly had given up on too much before she began.

    In my book, the only chapters people relate to are the stuff that I personally lived, and been there in actuality. The ego crap stuff, nobody but me can really 'get' and so- it's 'off' when that happens. It's like she didn't understand the artistic eclipse that all artists need to learn about, how the subjective has to be mingled with an objective landscape or nobody will get what you're talking about or like your story. (Or whatever else you're doing) The whole thing will be nothing but a ballad of self-mockery. And that's why she killed herself. Such as this:

    The dead leaves whisper
    My soul is torn asunder
    By the dead emoness
    Maybe I should just get a job
    But a fag burns, burns in my eyes
    And I must save him from the crow's death
    Beaks picking out his guts
    Can I be home now?
    When will love's touch fuck me again

    Art is the beautiful blend of subjectivity and objectivity. Sylvia Plath didn't live fully enough to be an artist, sadly. She got stuck. It's a huge temptation, I don't blame her for it. It happens to most people who want to be artists.

  10. #10
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    Definitely NOT ENFp...IMO...INFp does seem likely, or at least some sort of Beta.
    My life's work (haha):
    Input, PLEASEAnd thank you

  11. #11
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    SEE works. IMO the photos, descriptions of her personality, and stark visual imagery in her writing all very strongly suggest leading . As for ...

    Bit my pretty red heart in two.
    I was ten when they buried you.
    At twenty I tried to die
    And get back, back, back to you.
    I thought even the bones would do.


    There's a stake in your fat black heart
    And the villagers never liked you.
    They are dancing and stamping on you.
    They always knew it was you.
    Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.
    Possibly SLE, but my gut instinct says SEE.

    How's that for an SEE look?
    The higher, the fewer

    Articles - Questionnaire - Typology Network - Blog

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maritsa33 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by polikujm View Post
    She's INFj.

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    I'm just reading all the comments now. They're interesting. I'd say INFp is definitely the most likely. Although I could also believe INFj or ESFp. Way back when I was on, at first I actually thought she V.I.'d as an ISTp, although of course that's very unlikely. Yet for now the types I'd entertain (based primarily on this thread, etc.) [and they're listed from most likely to less likely] are:

    1. INFp
    2. INFj
    3. ESFp

    4. ISFj
    5. ESTp
    6. ISFp

    7. INTp
    8. ISTp
    9. ISTj

    One thing going against her being INFp, is that BulletsAndDoves doesn't seem to like her work that much . . . And although I can't really run away from myself, one day I'll probably run away from here.

    Here are some more excerpts from Sylvia Plath's writings et al.

    - from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath; pp. 9-10 (Chapter One): It was so dark in the bar I could hardly make out anything except Doreen. With her white hair and white dress she was so white she looked silver. I think she must have reflected the neons over the bar. I felt myself melting into the shadows like the negative of a person I’d never seen before in my life.
    ‘Well, what’ll we have?’ the man asked with a large smile.
    ‘I think I’ll have an Old-Fashioned,’ Doreen said to me.
    Ordering drinks always floored me. I didn’t know whisky from gin and never managed to get anything I really liked the taste of. Buddy Willard and the other college boys I knew were usually too poor to buy hard liquor or they scorned drinking altogether. It’s amazing how many college boys don’t drink or smoke. I seemed to know them all. The farthest Buddy Willard ever went was buying us a bottle of Dubonnet, which he only did because he was trying to prove he could be aesthetic in spite of being a medical student.
    ‘I’ll have a vodka,’ I said.
    The man looked at me more closely. ‘With anything?’
    ‘Just plain,’ I said. ‘I always have it plain.’
    I thought I might make a fool of myself by saying I’d have it with ice or soda or gin or anything. I’d seen a vodka ad once, just a glass full of vodka standing in the middle of a snowdrift in a blue light, and the vodka looked clear and pure as water, so I thought having vodka plain must be all right. My dream was some day ordering a drink and finding out it tasted wonderful.

    - p. 12: I liked looking on at other people in crucial situations. If there was a road accident or a street fight or a baby pickled in a laboratory jar for me to look at, I’d stop and look so hard I never forgot it.
    I certainly learned a lot of things I never would have learned otherwise this way, and even when they surprised me or made me sick I never let on, but pretended that’s the way I knew things were all the time.

    - p. 17 (Chapter Two): There wasn’t a soul in the hall. I let myself into my room. It was full of smoke. At first I thought the smoke had materialized out of thin air as a sort of judgement, but then I remembered it was Doreen’s smoke and pushed the button that opened the window vent. They had the windows fixed so you couldn’t really open them and lean out, and for some reason this made me furious.
    By standing at the left side of the window and laying my cheek to the woodwork, I could see downtown to where the UN balanced itself in the dark, like a weird, green, Martian honeycomb. I could see the moving red and white lights along the drive and the lights of the bridges whose names I didn’t know.
    The silence depressed me. It wasn’t the silence of silence. It was my own silence.
    I knew perfectly well the cars were making a noise, and the people in them and behind the lit windows of the buildings were making a noise, and the river was making a noise, but I couldn’t hear a thing. The city hung in my window, flat as a poster, glittering and blinking, but it might just as well not have been there at all, for all the good it did me.
    The china-white bedside telephone could have connected me up with things, but there it sat, dumb as a death’s head.

    - pp. 18-19: The mirror over my bureau seemed slightly warped and much too silver. The face in it looked like the reflection in a ball of dentist’s mercury. I thought of crawling in between the bed sheets and trying to sleep, but that appealed to me about as much as stuffing a dirty, scrawled-over letter into a fresh, clean envelope. I decided to take a hot bath.
    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.’
    I meditate in the bath. The water needs to be very hot, so hot you can barely stand putting your foot in it. Then you lower yourself, inch by inch, till the water’s up to your neck.
    I remember the ceilings over every bathtub I’ve stretched out in. I remember the texture of the ceilings and the cracks and the colours and the damp spots and the light fixtures. I remember the tubs, too: the antique griffin-legged tubs, and the modern coffin-shaped tubs, and the fancy pink marble tubs overlooking indoor lily ponds, and I remember the shapes and sizes of the water taps and the different sorts of soap-holders.
    I never feel so much myself as when I’m in a hot bath.
    I lay in that tub on the seventeenth floor of this hotel for women-only, high up over the jazz and push of New York, for near on to an hour, and I felt myself growing pure again. I don’t believe in baptism or the waters of Jordan or anything like that, but I guess I feel about a hot bath the way those religious people feel about holy water.
    I said to myself: ‘Doreen is dissolving, Lenny Shepherd is dissolving, Frankie is dissolving, New York is dissolving, they are all dissolving away and none of them matter any more. I don’t know them, I have never known them and I am very pure. All that liquor and those sticky kisses I saw and the dirt that settled on my skin on the way back is turning into something pure.’
    The longer I lay there in the clear hot water the purer I felt, and when I stepped out at last and wrapped myself in one of the big, soft, white, hotel bath towels I felt pure and sweet as a new baby.

    - p. 21: I made a decision about Doreen that night. I decided I would watch her and listen to what she said, but deep down I would have nothing at all to do with her. Deep down, I would be loyal to Betsy and her innocent friends. It was Betsy I resembled at heart.

    - pp. 25-26 (Chapter Three): None of our magazine editors or the Ladies’ Day staff members sat anywhere near me, and Betsy seemed sweet and friendly, she didn’t even seem to like caviar, so I grew more and more confident. When I finished my first plate of cold chicken and caviar, I laid out another. Then I tackled the avocado and crabmeat salad.
    Avocados are my favourite fruit. Every Sunday my grandfather used to bring me an avocado pear hidden at the bottom of his briefcase under six soiled shirts and the Sunday comics. He taught me how to eat avocados by melting grape jelly and French dressing together in a saucepan and filling the cup of the pear with the garnet sauce. I felt homesick for that sauce. The crabmeat tasted bland in comparison.

    - from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath; pp. 194-195 (Chapter Sixteen): That afternoon my mother had come to visit me.
    My mother was only one in a long stream of visitors – my former employer, the lady Christian Scientist, who walked on the lawn with me and talked about the mist going up from the earth in the Bible, and the mist being error, and my whole trouble being that I believed in the mist, and the minute I stopped believing in it, it would disappear and I would see I had always been well, and the English teacher I had in high school who came and tried to teach me how to play Scrabble, because he thought it might revive my old interest in words, and Philomena Guinea herself, who wasn’t at all satisfied with what the doctors were doing and kept telling them so.
    I hated these visits.
    I would be sitting in my alcove or in my room, and a smiling nurse would pop in and announce one or another of the visitors. Once they’d even brought the minister of the Unitarian church, whom I’d never really liked at all. He was terribly nervous the whole time, and I could tell he thought I was crazy as a loon, because 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.
    I hated these visits, because I kept feeling the visitors measuring my fat and stringy hair against what I had been and what they wanted me to be, and I knew they went away utterly confounded.
    I thought if they left me alone I might have some peace.
    My mother was the worst. She never scolded me, but kept begging me, with a sorrowful face, to tell her what she had done wrong. She said she was sure the doctors thought she had done something wrong because they asked her a lot of questions about my toilet training, and I had been perfectly trained at a very early age and given her no trouble whatsoever.
    That afternoon my mother had brought me the roses.
    ‘Save them for my funeral,’ I’d said.
    My mother’s face puckered, and she looked ready to cry.
    ‘But Esther, don’t you remember what day it is today?’
    I thought it might be Saint Valentine’s day.
    ‘It’s your birthday.’
    And that was when I had dumped the roses in the wastebasket.
    ‘That was a silly thing for her to do,’ I said to Doctor Nolan.
    Doctor Nolan nodded. She seemed to know what I meant.
    ‘I hate her,’ I said, and waited for the blow to fall.
    But Doctor Nolan only smiled at me as if something had pleased her very, very much, and said, ‘I suppose you do.’

    - from Lover of Unreason: Assia Wevill, Sylvia Plath’s Rival and Ted Hughes’s Doomed Love by Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev; p. 87 [(Chapter) Nine – A Fateful Meeting – Devon, May 1962]: On Friday, 18 May, at the end of their working day, Assia and David took the train from Waterloo to Exeter, where Ted was waiting to pick them up in his Morris Traveller. That evening they all dined in the big back room, at the round wooden table that the Wevills had loaned to Ted and Sylvia. David Wevill remembers: “during dinner and after, we talked a lot, satirizing people we knew. It was a lively conversation, and Assia told stories from Burma and other chapters in her life. Sylvia was a good listener, and she also told anecdotes of her life in the States. She and Ted gave the impression of a very close and devoted couple that had worked out a life for themselves.”
    Though she enjoyed the company, Assia clearly did not like Court Green, which she found damp, “with hideous grass gorging on the smooth brown stones. Grass almost grew in the house,” she later wrote in her diary. She liked even less Sylvia’s whimsical decoration of the place – she seemed to have painted hearts and flowers everywhere – and Assia found the house to be “very secret, red, childishly furnished. Naively furnished. The whole look of it improvised, amateurish.”

    - from Sylvia Plath: A Biography by Connie Ann Kirk; pp. 61-62 [Chapter 4 – THE ACADEMIC LIFE (1950-1955)]: That October Sylvia learned who had given her the scholarship to attend Smith. She was popular writer Olive Higgins Prouty, whose best-known work was Now, Voyager, a novel that had been made into a film starring Bette Davis, and Stella Dallas, which had been made into a popular radio show as well as a film starring Barbara Stanwyck. That fall Sylvia wrote Ms. Prouty a letter of gratitude for her gift that moved the author to tears. In it, she described her influences as a writer, whom she claimed then to be Edna St. Vincent Millay, Stephen Vincent Benet, Virginia Woolf, and Sinclair Lewis. She also expressed her love of the Smith Campus, the way the houses lit up at night, the view she had of Paradise Pond from her room, and the chimes. Upon receiving the letter, Olive Prouty invited her grateful scholarship recipient to her home in Brookline, Massachusetts, for tea over Christmas break. Sylvia could hardly wait for the semester to be over so that she could finally meet her author benefactor.

    - from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath; pp. 36-38 [Chapter Four]: When the cherubs in Jay Cee’s French wall-clock waved their wings up and down and put the little gilt trumpets to their lips and pinged out twelve notes one after the other, Jay Cee told me I’d done enough work for the day, and to go off to the Ladies’ Day tour and banquet and to the film premiere, and she would see me bright and early tomorrow.
    Then she slipped a suit jacket over her lilac blouse, pinned a hat of imitation lilacs on the top of her head, powdered her nose briefly and adjusted her thick spectacles. She looked terrible, but very wise. As she left the office, she patted my shoulder with one lilac-gloved hand.
    ‘Don’t let the wicked city get you down.’
    I sat quietly in my swivel chair for a few minutes and thought about Jay Cee. I tried to imagine what it would be like if I were Ee Gee, the famous editor, in an office full of potted rubber plants and African violets my secretary had to water each morning. I wished I had a mother like Jay Cee. Then I’d know what to do.
    My own mother wasn’t much help. My mother had taught shorthand and typing to support us ever since my father died, and secretly she hated it and hated him for dying and leaving no money because he didn’t trust life insurance salesmen. She was always on me to learn shorthand after college, so I’d have a practical skill as well as a college degree. ‘Even the apostles were tent-makers,’ she’d say. ‘They had to live, just the way we do.’
    I dabbed my fingers in the bowl of warm water a Ladies’ Day waitress set down in place of my two empty ice-cream dishes. Then I wiped each finger carefully with my linen napkin which was still quite clean. Then I folded the linen napkin and laid it between my lips and brought my lips down on it precisely. When I put the napkin back on the table a fuzzy pink lip-shape bloomed right in the middle of it like a tiny heart.
    I thought what a long way I had come.
    The first time I saw a finger-bowl was at the home of my benefactress. It was the custom at my college, the little freckled lady in the Scholarships Office told me, to write to the person whose scholarship you had, if they were still alive, and thank them for it.
    I had the scholarship of Philomena Guinea, a wealthy novelist who went to my college in the early nineteen-hundreds and had her first novel made into a silent film with Bette Davis as well as a radio serial that was still running, and it turned out she was alive and lived in a large mansion not far from my grandfather’s country club.
    So I wrote Philomena Guinea a long letter in coal-black ink on grey paper with the name of the college embossed on it in red. I wrote what the leaves looked like in autumn when I bicycled out into the hills, and how wonderful it was to live on a campus instead of commuting by bus to a city college and having to live at home, and how all knowledge was opening up before me and perhaps one day I would be able to write great books the way she did.
    I had read one of Mrs Guinea’s books in the town library – the college library didn’t stock them for some reason – and it was crammed from beginning to end with long, suspenseful questions: ‘Would Evelyn discern that Gladys knew Roger in her past? wondered Hector feverishly’ and ‘How could Donald marry her when he learned of the child Elsie, hidden away with Mrs Rollmop on the secluded country farm? Griselda demanded of her bleak, moonlit pillow.’ These books earned Philomena Guinea, who later told me she had been very stupid at college, millions and millions of dollars.
    Mrs Guinea answered my letter and invited me to lunch at her home. That was where I saw my first finger-bowl.
    The water had a few cherry blossoms floating in it, and I thought it must be some clear sort of Japanese after-dinner soup and ate every bit of it, including the crisp little blossoms. Mrs Guinea never said anything, and it was only much later, when I told a debutante I knew at college about the dinner, that I learned what I had done.
    Last edited by HERO; 10-27-2012 at 06:49 AM.
    “Must get that Capel street library book renewed or they’ll write to
    Kearney, my garantor. Reincarnation: that’s the word.

    — Some people believe, he said, that we go on living in another body
    after death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived
    before on the earth thousands of years ago or some other planet. They say we
    have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives.

    The sluggish cream wound curdling spirals through her tea. Better remind
    her of the word: metempsychosis. An example would be better.”

    —from Ulysses by James Joyce

  14. #14
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    Default "Sylvia Plath: An Example of Forbidden Suffering"

    - from For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence by Alice Miller; pp. 254-260 [STEPS ON THE PATH TO RECONCILIATION: ANXIETY, ANGER, AND SORROW—BUT NO GUILT FEELINGS (Sylvia Plath: An Example of Forbidden Suffering)]:

    You ask me why I spend my life writing?
    Do I find entertainment?
    Is it worthwhile?
    Above all, does it pay?
    If not, then, is there a reason? . . .
    I write only because
    There is a voice within me
    That will not be still.


    Every life and every childhood is filled with frustrations; we cannot imagine it otherwise, for even the best mother cannot satisfy all her child’s wishes and needs. It is not the suffering caused by frustration, however, that leads to emotional illness but rather the fact that the child is forbidden by the parents to experience and articulate this suffering, the pain felt at being wounded; usually the purpose of this prohibition is to protect the parents’ defense mechanisms. Adults are free to hurl reproaches at God, at fate, at the authorities, or at society if they are deceived, ignored, punished unjustly, confronted with excessive demands, or lied to. Children are not allowed to reproach their gods—their parents and teachers. By no means are they allowed to express their frustrations. Instead, they must repress or deny their emotional reactions, which build up inside until adulthood, when they are finally discharged, but not on the object that caused them. The forms this discharge may take range from persecuting their own children by the way they bring them up, to all possible degrees of emotional illness, to addiction, criminality, and even suicide.
    The most acceptable and profitable form this discharge can take for society is literature, because this does not burden anyone with guilt feelings. In this medium the author is free to make every possible reproach, since here it can be attributed to a fictitious person. An illustration is the life of Sylvia Plath, for in her case, along with her poetry and the fact of her psychotic breakdown as well as her later suicide, there are also the personal statements she makes in her letters and the comments by her mother. The tremendous pressure she felt to achieve and the constant stress she was under are always emphasized when Sylvia’s suicide is discussed. Her mother, too, points this out repeatedly, for parents of suicidal people understandably try to restrict themselves to external causes, since their guilt feelings stand in the way of their seeing the situation for what it actually is and of their experiencing grief.

    Sylvia Plath’s life was no more difficult than that of millions of others. Presumably as a result of her sensitivity, she suffered much more intensely than most people from the frustrations of childhood, but she experienced joy more intensely also. Yet the reason for her despair was not her suffering but the impossibility of communicating her suffering to another person. In all her letters she assures her mother how well she is doing. The suspicion that her mother did not release negative letters for publication overlooks the deep tragedy of Plath’s life. This tragedy (and the explanation for her suicide as well) lies in the very fact that she could not have written any other kind of letters, because her mother needed reassurance, or because Sylvia at any rate believed that her mother would not have been able to live without this reassurance. Had Sylvia been able to write aggressive and unhappy letters to her mother, she would not have had to commit suicide. Had her mother been able to experience grief at her inability to comprehend the abyss that was her daughter’s life, she never would have published the letters, because the assurances they contained of how well things were going for her daughter would have been too painful to bear. Aurelia Plath is unable to mourn over this because she has guilt feelings, and the letters serve her as proof of her innocence. The following passage from Letters Home provides an example of her rationalization.

    The following poem, written at the age of fourteen, was inspired by the accidental blurring of a pastel still-life Sylvia had just completed and stood up on the porch table to show us. As Warren, Grammy, and I were admiring it, the doorbell rang. Grammy took off her apron, tossed it on the table, and went to answer the call, her apron brushing against the pastel, blurring part of it. Grammy was grieved. Sylvia, however, said lightly, “Don’t worry; I can patch it up.” That night she wrote her first poem containing tragic undertones.


    I thought that I could not be hurt;
    I thought that I must surely be
    impervious to suffering—
    immune to mental pain
    or agony.

    My world was warm with April sun
    my thoughts were spangled green and gold;
    my soul filled up with joy, yet felt
    the sharp, sweet pain that only joy
    can hold.

    My spirit soared above the gulls
    that, swooping breathlessly so high
    o’erhead, now seem to brush their whirring
    wings against the blue roof of
    the sky.

    (How frail the human heart must be—
    a throbbing pulse, a trembling thing—
    a fragile, shining instrument
    of crystal, which can either weep,
    or sing.)

    Then, suddenly my world turned gray,
    and darkness wiped aside my joy.
    A dull and aching void was left
    where careless hands had reached out to

    my silver web of happiness.
    The hands then stopped in wonderment,
    for, loving me, they wept to see
    the tattered ruins of my firmament.

    (How frail the human heart must be—
    a mirrored pool of thought. So deep
    and tremulous an instrument
    of glass that it can either sing,
    or weep.)

    Her English teacher, Mr. Crockett, showed this to a colleague, who said, “Incredible that one so young could have experienced anything so devastating.” When I repeated Mr. Crockett’s account of this conversation to me, Sylvia smiled impishly, saying, “Once a poem is made available to the public, the right of interpretation belongs to the reader.”

    If a sensitive child like Sylvia Plath intuits that it is essential for her mother to interpret the daughter’s pain only as the consequence of a picture being damaged and not as a consequence of the destruction of her daughter’s self and its expression—symbolized in the fate of the pastel—the child will do her utmost to hide her authentic feelings from the mother. The letters are testimony of the false self she constructed (whereas her true self is speaking in The Bell Jar). With the publication of the letters, her mother erects an imposing monument to her daughter’s false self.
    We can learn from this example what suicide really is: the only possible way to express the true self—at the expense of life itself. Many parents are like Sylvia’s mother. They desperately try to behave correctly toward their child, and in their child’s behavior they seek reassurance that they are good parents. The attempt to be an ideal parent, that is, to behave correctly toward the child, to raise her correctly, not to give too little or too much, is in essence an attempt to be the ideal child – well behaved and dutiful – of one’s own parents. But as a result of these efforts the needs of the child go unnoticed. I cannot listen to my child with empathy if I am inwardly preoccupied with being a good mother; I cannot be open to what she is telling me. This can be observed in various parental attitudes.
    Frequently, parents will not be aware of their child’s narcissistic wounds; they do not notice them because they learned, from the time they were little, not to take them seriously in themselves. It may be the case that they are aware of them but believe it is better for the child not to become aware. They will try to talk her out of many of her early perceptions and make her forget her earliest experiences, all in the belief that this is for the child’s own good, for they think that she could not bear to know the truth and would fall ill as a result. That it is just the other way around, that the child suffers precisely because the truth is concealed, they do not see. This was strikingly illustrated in the case of a little baby with a severe birth defect who, from the time she was born, had to be tied down at feeding time and fed in a manner that resembled torture. The mother later tried to keep this “secret” from her grown daughter, in order to “spare” her from something that had already happened. She was therefore unable to help her acknowledge to herself this early experience, which was expressing itself through various symptoms.
    Whereas the first attitude is based entirely on the repression of one’s own childhood experiences, the second one also includes the absurd hope that the past can be corrected by remaining silent about it.
    In the first case we encounter the principle, “What must not be cannot be,” and in the second, “If we don’t talk about what happened, then it didn’t happen.”

    The malleability of a sensitive child is nearly boundless, permitting all these parental demands to be absorbed by the psyche. The child can adapt perfectly to them, and yet something remains, which we might call body knowledge, that allows the truth to manifest itself in physical illnesses or sensations, and sometimes also in dreams. If a psychosis or neurosis develops, this is yet another way of letting the soul speak, albeit in a form that no one can understand and that becomes as much of a burden to the affected person—and to society—as his or her childhood reactions to the traumata suffered had been to the parents.
    As I have repeatedly stressed, it is not the trauma itself that is the source of illness but the unconscious, repressed, hopeless despair over not being allowed to give expression to what one has suffered and the fact that one is not allowed to show and is unable to experience feelings of rage, anger, humiliation, despair, helplessness, and sadness. This causes many people to commit suicide because life no longer seems worth living if they are totally unable to live out all these strong feelings that are part of their true self. Naturally, we cannot require parents to face something they are unable to face, but we can keep confronting them with the knowledge that it was not suffering per se that made their child ill but its repression, which was essential for the sake of the parents. I have found that this knowledge often provides parents with an “aha!” experience that opens up for them the possibility of mourning, thus helping to reduce their guilt feelings.
    Pain over the frustration one has suffered is nothing to be ashamed of, nor is it harmful. It is a natural, human reaction. However, if it is verbally or nonverbally forbidden or even stamped out by force and by beatings, as it is in “poisonous pedagogy,” then natural development is impeded and the conditions for pathological development are created. Hitler proudly reported that one day, without a tear or a cry, he managed to count the blows his father gave him. Hitler imagined that his father never beat him again thereafter. I take this to be a figment of his imagination because it is unlikely that Alois’s reasons for beating his son disappeared from one day to the next, for his motives were not related to the child’s behavior but to his own unresolved childhood humiliation. The son’s imaginings tell us, however, that he could not remember the beatings his father gave him from that time on because having to fight down his psychic pain by identifying with the aggressor also meant that the memory of the later beatings was repressed. This phenomenon can often be observed in patients who, as a result of regaining access to their feelings, now remember events they previously emphatically denied had taken place.

    - from Sylvia Plath: The Wound and the Cure of Words by Steven Gould Axelrod; p. 116: Although The Catcher in the Rye served as The Bell Jar’s structural model (Wagner-Martin 187), Mrs. Dalloway functions as the more essential, if less obvious, parent text. The Bell Jar differs from Mrs. Dalloway in several ways. Reflecting its debt to American realist tradition, it transforms the precursor’s high ironies into satire. It also offers a superficially different protagonist. Esther Greenwood is an American late adolescent, self-conscious about her sex and seeking to negotiate a passage to adulthood without any “ritual” to support her; Clarissa Dalloway, conversely, is a middle-aged, upper-middle-class Englishwoman firmly ensconced in a social web. Esther is the kind of person who steps on as many feet as possible as she exits a theater and who achieves catharsis by giving herself permission to “hate”; Clarissa struggles nobly against “hatred,” which she pictures as a “monster grubbing at the roots” (Mrs. Dalloway 17). Within this system of differences, however, The Bell Jar undertakes to retell and to revise Mrs. Dalloway’s fundamental story. Like its precursor, it examines a woman’s place, choices, and suffering in a patriarchal culture, posing self-annihilation as one possible antidote to pain.

    - from Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath by Anne Stevenson; pp. 112-113 [(Chapter 6 – Disquieting Muses, 1957-1958]: Sylvia picked through her rejected manuscript ruefully, discarding weak poems, tinkering with the title. The resolutions she had made earlier to be “stronger” than Virginia Woolf, to live not “for life itself: but for the words which stay the flux,” began to pale before her growing panic at her poor output that summer and her lack of success in publishing what she had written.

    - from A Disturbance in Mirrors: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath by Pamela J. Annas; p. 17 [(Chapter) 2 – The Colossus: In Search of a self]:
    The tradition of the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.
    -- Karl Marx [Karl Marx, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,” in The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker (New York: W. W. Norton, 1972), p. 437. (Originally published in 1852).]

    They had no tradition behind them, or one so short and partial that it was of little help.
    -- Virginia Woolf [Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1929), p. 79.]

    - pp. 32-33: Although the tone of “The Colossus” is one of rueful or wry humor, the poem finally concludes that at this point there is no longer any possibility of getting this image, which overshadows her own existence, put properly together. Right now the image, like that of the old man’s face in “Full Fathom Five,” clutters up her whole field of perception. “Your fluted bones and acanthine hair are littered / In their old anarchy to the horizon-line.” In one sense, the poem documents a search for meaning, for a tradition she can fit into. The statue is in fragments and if she can somehow put it all together, rearrange it, not only will her task be completed and allow her to go on to something else, but she will have gained wisdom and some kind of definition of her own self from the labor. The image of the statue is, from the speaker’s point of view, one of disjunction and cacophony rather than harmony and order.

    Mule-bray, pig-grunt and bawdy cackles
    Proceed from your great lips.
    It’s worse than a barnyard.

    Perhaps you consider yourself an oracle,
    Mouthpiece of the dead, or of some god or other.

    The center of the poem is the contrast between the statue and the woman. She is subordinated to it in size and significance. The landscape of her world is finally bounded by the statue: “The sun rises under the pillar of your tongue. / My hours are married to shadow.” In fact, she has become so obsessed with this self-imposed task that she no longer even hopes for the possibility of a release: “No longer do I listen for the scrape of a keel / On the blank stones of the landing.”
    As a statue and reminiscent of Greek and Roman culture, the image of “The Colossus” records Sylvia Plath’s confrontation with an overwhelmingly male tradition of which Virginia Woolf had earlier said, in a May 1903 letter to her brother Thoby, then at Cambridge:

    I don’t get anybody to argue with me now, & feel the want. I have to delve from books, painfully & all alone, what you get every evening sitting over your fire & smoking your pipe with Strachey, etc. No wonder my knowledge is but scant. [Quoted in Quentin Bell, Virginia Woolf: A Biography (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1972), p. 70.]

    Here are a couple of links:

    Daniel Mackler -- "Suicide: The Ultimate Way To Avoid the Painful Truth

    People commit suicide when the pain of lying to themselves is unbearable and the pain of telling the truth is even worse. Here the journey to manifest enlightenment – to heal all one’s childhood traumas – feels hopeless. The person’s childhood cemented the notion that deep, consistent parental love was completely out of the question and that his parents were nothing more than shams. But he could never face that fact, because it was too painful – and they would have only rejected him all the more. Instead he denies it and turns his hopelessness and rage and anger toward himself. He swallows up the worst of his parents into his psyche and he fantasizes that death will free him, and bring him peace. But it will not. Death is no relief. Death will only end his journey and kill his potential to grow.

    Only a few of the truly suicidal, the most isolated and alienated, end their own lives. Most express their suicidality more acceptably, through extreme passivity or self-neglect, both of which go hand in hand with a desperate but silent cry for parental rescue. A flip side of this involves people who engage in risky acting-out behavior, such as driving dangerously, using drugs and alcohol excessively, heavy overeating or under-eating, fighting violently with others when true self-defense is not involved, having risky sex, climbing mountains… Such people let the world know how much they undervalue their own lives – which is exactly what they were taught in their childhood homes.

    The cure for being suicidal is to heal the ancient wounds that caused the despair. This will not be easy for him, because his parents crushed the searching side of him, and subtly threatened him with full rejection if he tried to reconstitute his healthy and seeking side. But healing is possible. A suicidal person needs to find others who can hear him and believe him and trust him – trust every little bit of horror he’s gone through and still holds inside his psyche like a poisonous abscess – until he can learn to do this for himself. He must begin his growth process in a more enlightened setting that does not crush him anew. He must find ways to look honestly at the history of his demise and feel all his grief, horror, and rage. He may lose his old numb self in the process, but he will find his life. No one who finds the path to his legitimate anger and honest grief can ever stay suicidal for long.

    I remember how I used to talk to my ex (from Arizona) sometimes about some of my favorite people -- Sylvia Plath, Alice Miller, etc. Sometimes he would apply ‘word corruption’ [like ‘fuxed up teef’ or ‘boifriend’ (to his life or our life together)] or make fun of people’s names (e.g. ‘Sylvia Plap’). I would say I admire people like Alice Miller and Sylvia Plath, and he would say he admired dictators like Hitler... [Although there was another time when he said that Hitler was weak.]
    When I was in Phoenix, we went to the library and I showed him a book of Sylvia Plath’s poems. I specifically showed him the poem “Daddy”; I don’t think he liked it too much though. He said she had “daddy issues.” Yet a couple of days or so before I left, we went to a bookstore, and he ended up buying me The Bell Jar (it was a very nice copy, nice cover, intro, etc.). Unfortunately after I returned (after one week in Phoenix/Tempe), the following couple months (et al.) would be very turbulent and chaotic, up to the point where my Mom even broke the book he bought me because she was so angry with me.
    I remember, it was probably still a couple or few weeks before he broke up with me (in other words just unexpectedly/suddenly broke off communication...) that I sent him the first few chapters of The Bell Jar by e-mail. Yet I actually typed them out. I think he kind of liked what he read for the most part.
    Once when he was kind of upset with me he said I was “stoo-pit!”, like the way it was written in the novel.

    - from The Bell Jar; pp. 6-7 (Chapter One): Jay Cee wanted to teach me something, all the old ladies I ever knew wanted to teach me something, but I suddenly didn’t think they had anything to teach me. I fitted the lid on my typewriter and clicked it shut.
    Doreen grinned. ‘Smart girl.’
    Somebody tapped at the door.
    ‘Who is it?’ I didn’t bother to get up.
    ‘It’s me, Betsy. Are you coming to the party?’
    ‘I guess so.’ I still didn’t go to the door.
    They imported Betsy straight from Kansas with her bouncing blonde ponytail and Sweetheart-of-Sigma-Chi smile. I remember once the two of us were called over to the office of some blue-chinned TV producer in a pin-stripe suit to see if we had any angles he could build up for a programme, and Betsy started to tell about the male and female corn in Kansas. She got so excited about that damn corn even the producer had tears in his eyes, only he couldn’t use any of it, unfortunately, he said.
    Later on, the Beauty Editor persuaded Betsy to cut her hair and made a cover girl out of her, and I still see her face now and then, smiling out of those ‘P.Q.’s wife wears B.H. Wragge’ ads.
    Betsy was always asking me to do things with her and the other girls as if she were trying to save me in some way. She never asked Doreen. In private, Doreen called her Pollyanna Cowgirl.
    ‘Do you want to come in our cab?’ Betsy said through the door.
    Doreen shook her head.
    ‘That’s all right, Betsy,’ I said. ‘I’m going with Doreen.’
    ‘Okay.’ I could hear Betsy padding off down the hall.
    ‘We’ll just go till we get sick of it,’ Doreen told me, stubbing out her cigarette in the base of my bedside reading-lamp, ‘then we’ll go out on the town. Those parties they stage here remind me of the old dances in the school gym. Why do they always round up Yalies? They’re so stoo-pit!’
    Buddy Willard went to Yale, but now I thought of it, what was wrong with him was that he was stupid. Oh, he’d managed to get good marks all right, and to have an affair with some awful waitress on the Cape by the name of Gladys, but he didn’t have one speck of intuition. Doreen had intuition. Everything she said was like a secret voice speaking straight out of my own bones.

    - pp. 88-90 (Chapter Eight): ‘I think I should tell you something, Buddy.’
    ‘I know, Buddy said stiffly. ‘You’ve met someone.’
    ‘No, it’s not that.’
    ‘What is it, then?’
    ‘I’m never going to get married.’
    ‘You’re crazy.’ Buddy brightened. ‘You’ll change your mind.’
    ‘No. My mind’s made up.’
    But Buddy just went on looking cheerful.
    ‘Remember,’ I said, ‘that time you hitch-hiked back to college with me after Skit Night?’
    ‘I remember.’
    ‘Remember how you asked me where would I like to live best, the country or the city?’
    ‘And you said . . .’
    ‘And I said I wanted to live in the country and in the city both?’
    Buddy nodded.
    ‘And you,’ I continued with sudden force, ‘laughed and said I had the perfect set-up of a true neurotic and that that question came from some questionnaire you’d had in psychology class that week?’
    Buddy’s smile dimmed.
    ‘Well, you were right. I am neurotic. I could never settle down in either the country or the city.’
    ‘You could live between them,’ Buddy suggested helpfully. ‘Then you could go to the city sometimes and to the country sometimes.’
    ‘Well, what’s so neurotic about that?’
    Buddy didn’t answer.
    ‘Well?’ I rapped out, thinking, ‘You can’t coddle these sick people, it’s the worst thing for them, it’ll spoil them to bits.’
    ‘Nothing,’ Buddy said in a pale, still voice.
    ‘Neurotic, ha!’ I let out a scornful laugh. ‘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.’
    Buddy put his hand on mine.
    ‘Let me fly with you.’
    Last edited by HERO; 10-27-2012 at 07:15 AM.
    “Must get that Capel street library book renewed or they’ll write to
    Kearney, my garantor. Reincarnation: that’s the word.

    — Some people believe, he said, that we go on living in another body
    after death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived
    before on the earth thousands of years ago or some other planet. They say we
    have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives.

    The sluggish cream wound curdling spirals through her tea. Better remind
    her of the word: metempsychosis. An example would be better.”

    —from Ulysses by James Joyce

  15. #15
    Coldest of the Socion EyeSeeCold's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by polikujm View Post
    She's INFj.

    An ILI at rest tends to remain at rest
    and an ILI in motion is probably not an ILI

    31.9FM KICE Radio ♫ *56K Warning*
    My work on Inert/Contact subtypes

    Socionics Visual Identification(V.I.) Database
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    Fidei Defensor

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    Haikus Beautiful sky's Avatar
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    Se -experiences the sensation then canonizes it in Fi. She doesn't do Fi first.


    You do not do, you do not do [action]
    Any more, black shoe [observation of object]
    In which I have lived like a foot [no Fi]
    For thirty years, poor and white, [Ni....]
    Barely daring to breathe or Achoo. [description of state of something]

    Daddy, I have had to kill you. [this is not Fi!!!]
    You died before I had time -- [Ni]
    Marble-heavy, a bag full of God, [more description of something]
    Ghastly statue with one gray toe
    Big as a Frisco seal

    And a head in the freakish Atlantic [experience-Se]
    Where it pours bean grean over blue
    In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
    I used to pray to recover you.
    Ach, du.
    Last edited by Beautiful sky; 03-19-2011 at 05:34 AM.

  17. #17
    Metaphysician thehotelambush's Avatar
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    Perhaps a bit more clear example of :
    I dabbed my fingers in the bowl of warm water a Ladies’ Day waitress set down in place of my two empty ice-cream dishes. Then I wiped each finger carefully with my linen napkin which was still quite clean. Then I folded the linen napkin and laid it between my lips and brought my lips down on it precisely. When I put the napkin back on the table a fuzzy pink lip-shape bloomed right in the middle of it like a tiny heart.
    I thought what a long way I had come.
    Plus a rather long digression on an topic:

    The mirror over my bureau seemed slightly warped and much too silver. The face in it looked like the reflection in a ball of dentist’s mercury. I thought of crawling in between the bed sheets and trying to sleep, but that appealed to me about as much as stuffing a dirty, scrawled-over letter into a fresh, clean envelope. I decided to take a hot bath.
    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.’
    I meditate in the bath. The water needs to be very hot, so hot you can barely stand putting your foot in it. Then you lower yourself, inch by inch, till the water’s up to your neck.
    I remember the ceilings over every bathtub I’ve stretched out in. I remember the texture of the ceilings and the cracks and the colours and the damp spots and the light fixtures. I remember the tubs, too: the antique griffin-legged tubs, and the modern coffin-shaped tubs, and the fancy pink marble tubs overlooking indoor lily ponds, and I remember the shapes and sizes of the water taps and the different sorts of soap-holders.
    I never feel so much myself as when I’m in a hot bath.
    Lots of sensing, generally. Hm, maybe ego is worth considering.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by thehotelambush View Post
    Perhaps a bit more clear example of : Plus a rather long digression on an topic:

    Lots of sensing, generally. Hm, maybe ego is worth considering.
    Is SLI worth considering?
    My life's work (haha):
    Input, PLEASEAnd thank you

  19. #19
    Metaphysician thehotelambush's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pianosinger View Post
    Is SLI worth considering?
    That would certainly be the most likely one. Still SEE > SLI.

    Check this out.

    There's definitely a lot of force in her poetry.

    "every woman adores a fascist"

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    This is probably another one of my misguided typings, yet I'm actually starting to consider SLE (Se-ESTp) for Sylvia Plath. And this also goes along with my sneaking suspicion that Virginia Woolf may not have been EII (perhaps she was Ni-INFp/IEI) and that Fyodor Dostoevsky also may not have been EII (although saying that is probably even more controversial -- I'd consider SEI (Si-ISFp) [or EIE] for him after EII).
    Regarding Sylvia Plath, maybe SLE (Se-ESTp); I think Ted Hughes may have been her dual: IEI; and Sylvia Plath's mother may have been ESI, although I haven't really researched her enough to have a stronger opinion.

    - Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath (Edited by Ted Hughes); pp. 244-247 (1962):
    Lady Lazarus

    I have done it again.
    One year in every ten
    I manage it—

    A sort of walking miracle, my skin
    Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
    My right foot

    A paperweight,
    My face a featureless, fine
    Jew linen.

    Peel off the napkin
    O my enemy.
    Do I terrify?—

    The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
    The sour breath
    Will vanish in a day.

    Soon, soon the flesh
    The grave cave ate will be
    At home on me

    And I a smiling woman.
    I am only thirty.
    And like the cat I have nine times to die.

    This is Number Three.
    What a trash
    To annihilate each decade.

    What a million filaments.
    The peanut-crunching crowd
    Shoves in to see

    Them unwrap me hand and foot—
    The big strip tease.
    Gentlemen, ladies

    These are my hands
    My knees.
    I may be skin and bone,

    Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
    The first time it happened I was ten.
    It was an accident.

    The second time I meant
    To last it out and not come back at all.
    I rocked shut

    As a seashell.
    They had to call and call
    And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

    Is an art, like everything else.
    I do it exceptionally well.

    I do it so it feels like hell.
    I do it so it feels real.
    I guess you could say I’ve a call.

    It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
    It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.
    It’s the theatrical

    Comeback in broad day
    To the same place, the same face, the same brute
    Amused shout:

    ‘A miracle!’
    That knocks me out.
    There is a charge

    For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
    For the hearing of my heart—
    It really goes.

    And there is a charge, a very large charge
    For a word or a touch
    Or a bit of blood

    Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
    So, so, Herr Doktor.
    So, Herr Enemy.

    I am your opus,
    I am your valuable,
    The pure gold baby

    That melts to a shriek.
    I turn and burn.
    Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

    Ash, ash—
    You poke and stir.
    Flesh, bone, there is nothing there—

    A cake of soap,
    A wedding ring,
    A gold filling.

    Herr God, Herr Lucifer

    Out of the ash
    I rise with my red hair
    And I eat men like air.

    23-29 October 1962

    - from The Death and Life of Sylvia Plath (8: Panicky Wife), pg. 103: . . . When she talked to him about her depressions, he sometimes managed to cheer her up, but she couldn’t always accept his astrological diagnoses: he talked about the moon and Saturn ‘to explain the curse which held me tight as a wire’ . . .

    - from The Bell Jar by SYLVIA PLATH, pg. 2/3 . . . 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.

    - from Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams (and other prose writings) by Sylvia Plath; p. 12 [Introduction (by Ted Hughes)]: Sylvia Plath herself had certainly rejected several of the stories here, so they are printed against her better judgment. That must be taken into account. But in spite of the obvious weaknesses, they seem interesting enough to keep, if only as notes towards her inner autobiography. Some of them demonstrate, even more baldly than the stronger stories, just how much the sheer objective presence of things and happenings immobilized her fantasy and invention. The still-life graphic artist in her was loyal to objects. Nothing refreshed her more than sitting for hours in front of some intricate pile of things laboriously delineating each one. But that was also a helplessness. The blunt fact killed any power or inclination to rearrange it or see it differently. This limitation to actual circumstances, which is the prison of so much of her prose, became part of the solidity and truth of her later poems.
    In 1960 she tried her hand at stories for the more sentimental English women’s magazines, and with these she managed a slightly freer range of invention. One of them, ‘Day of Success’, is included here as an example of her efforts at pastiche. But even here one can feel the rigidity of the objective situation elbowing the life out of the narrative.
    No doubt one of the weaknesses of these weaker stories is that she did not let herself be objective enough. When she wanted merely to record, with no thought of artful shaping or publication, she could produce some of her most effective writing—and that appears in her journals. [Emphasis mine]

    • "[Extraverted Sensing] (static) perceives outward sensory data projected by objects. Unless objects change their appearance significantly, the [Extraverted Sensing] impression will not change."

    “The stories of statics usually involve one constant main character.”

    The Bell Jar had one constant main character.

    - from Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams and other prose writings by Sylvia Plath; pp. 39-40 [The Day Mr Prescott Died]: It was a bright day, a hot day, the day old Mr Prescott died. Mama and I sat on the side seat of the rickety green bus from the subway station to Devonshire Terrace and jogged and jogged. The sweat was trickling down my back, I could feel it, and my black linen was stuck solid against the seat. Every time I moved it would come loose with a tearing sound, and I gave Mama an angry ‘so there’ look, just like it was her fault, which it wasn’t. But she only sat with her hands folded in her lap, jouncing up and down, and didn’t say anything. Just looked resigned to fate is all.
    ‘I say, Mama,’ I‘d told her after Mrs Mayfair called that morning, ‘I can see going to the funeral even though I don’t believe in funerals, only what do you mean we have to sit up and watch with them?’
    ‘It is what you do when somebody close dies,’ Mama said, very reasonable. ‘You go over and sit with them. It is a bad time.’
    ‘So it is a bad time,’ I argued. ‘So what can I do, not seeing Liz and Ben Prescott since I was a kid except once a year at Christmas time for giving presents at Mrs Mayfair’s. I am supposed to sit around hold handkerchiefs, maybe?’
    With that remark, Mama up and slapped me across the mouth, the way she hadn’t done since I was a little kid and very fresh. ‘You are coming with me,’ she said in her dignified tone that means definitely no more fooling.
    So that is how I happened to be sitting in this bus on the hottest day of the year. I wasn’t sure how you dressed for waiting up with people, but I figured as long as it was black it was all right. So I had on this real smart black linen suit and a little veil hat, like I wear to the office when I go out to dinner nights, and I felt ready for anything.
    Well, the bus chugged along and we went through the real bad parts of East Boston I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. Ever since we moved to the country with Aunt Myra, I hadn’t come back to my home town. The only thing I really missed after we moved was the ocean. Even today on this bus I caught myself waiting for that first stretch of blue.
    ‘Look, Mama, there’s the old beach,’ I said, pointing.
    Mama looked and smiled. ‘Yes.’ Then she turned around to me and her thin face got very serious. ‘I want you to make me proud of you today. When you talk, talk. But talk nice. None of this fancy business about burning people up like roast pigs. It isn’t decent.’
    ‘Oh, Mama,’ I said, very tired. I was always explaining. ‘Don’t you know I’ve got better sense. Just because old Mr Prescott had it coming. Just because nobody’s sorry, don’t think I won’t be nice and proper.’
    I knew that would get Mama. ‘What do you mean nobody’s sorry?’ she hissed at me, first making sure people weren’t near enough to listen. ‘What do you mean, talking so nasty?’
    ‘Now, Mama,’ I said, ‘you know Mr Prescott was twenty years older than Mrs Prescott and she was just waiting for him to die so she could have some fun. Just waiting. He was a grumpy old man even as far back as I remember. A cross word for everybody, and he kept getting that skin disease on his hands.’
    ‘That was a pity the poor man couldn’t help,’ Mama said piously.

    - from Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath (Edited by Ted Hughes); pp. 21-22 (1956):
    Winter Landscape, with Rooks

    Water in the millrace, through a sluice of stone,
    plunges headlong into that black pond
    where, absurd and out-of-season, a single swan
    floats chaste as snow, taunting the clouded mind
    which hungers to haul the white reflection down.

    The austere sun descends above the fen,
    an orange cyclops-eye, scorning to look
    longer on this landscape of chagrin;
    feathered dark in thought, I stalk like a rook,
    brooding as the winter night comes on.

    Last summer’s reeds are all engraved in ice
    as is your image in my eye; dry frost
    glazes the window of my hurt; what solace
    can be struck from rock to make heart’s waste
    grow green again? Who’d walk in this bleak place?

    - p. 26: Southern Sunrise

    Color of lemon, mango, peach,
    These storybook villas
    Still dream behind
    Shutters, their balconies
    Fine as hand-
    Made lace, or a leaf-and-flower pen-sketch.

    Tilting with the winds,
    On arrowy stems,
    A green crescent of palms
    Sends up its forked
    Firework of fronds.

    A quartz-clear dawn
    Inch by bright inch
    Gilds all our Avenue,
    And out of the blue drench
    Of Angels’ Bay
    Rises the round red watermelon sun.

    -Ekaterina Filatova, Understanding The People Around You: An Introduction To Socionics (Hollister: MSI Press, 2006), 144-145:

    - pp. 144-145 [Appendix I (Analysis of Psychological Peculiarities of the Heroes of M. Mitchell’s gone with the wind and their relations from the Socionic Standpoint)]: “Here is how the 16-year-old Scarlett expresses her principles to her Black nurse Mammy, when the last tries to teach Scarlett right, from her standpoint, behavior:

    I’m tired of everlastingly being unnatural and never doing anything I want to do. I’m tired of acting like I don’t eat more than a bird, and walking when I want to run and saying I feel faint after a waltz, when I could dance for two days and never get tired. I’m tired of saying, ‘How wonderful you are!’ to fool men who haven’t got one-half the sense I’ve got, and I’m tired of pretending I don’t know anything, so men can tell me things and feel important while they’re doing it…

    Even this small fragment is valid evidence of Scarlett’s being a Thinking type. She does not care much for acceptable norms of social behavior and calls things by their proper plain names.
    . . . The reader will definitely agree that Scarlett is characterized first and foremost by volitional pressure and decisiveness. She wants to achieve her goals at any costs and makes no bones about the means. Scarlett’s whole behavior is very characteristic for the pragmatic type Sensing-Thinking Extravert, which is called The Organizer in Socionics.”

    - Letters Home/Sylvia Plath [Correspondence 1950-1963/Selected and Edited with Commenatary by Aurelia Schober Plath]; p. 22: Her attachment to Grampy deepened, for he not only played games with her but took her swimming with him, an event she later described as a memorable experience with “daddy”. It was the beginning of her fusion of characters that occurred periodically in her writing. The first example of this takes place in an unpublished story, “Among the Bumblebees,” where the fusion of father and grandfather occurs several times, the story ending with her recollection of her father in his final illness.

    - pp. 25/28: The children would never recognize their father, I felt, so I did not take them to the funeral, but placed them in the kind, understanding care of Marion Freeman for that afternoon. What I intended as an exercise in courage for the sake of my children was interpreted years later by my daughter as indifference. “My mother never had time to mourn my father’s death.” I had vividly remembered a time when I was a little child, seeing my mother weep in my presence and feeling that my whole personal world was collapsing. Mother, the tower of strength, my one refuge, crying! It was this recollection that compelled me to withhold my tears until I was alone in bed at night. The week after Otto’s death both children came down with measles, Warren having the added complication of pneumonia and Sylvia developing sinusitis.

    - p. 37: Throughout her high school years, Sylvia was very uncritical of me. The remark I treasured most and wrote in my journal was made by Sylvia when she was fifteen. “When I am a mother I want to bring up my children just as you have us.” (This charitable attitude, however, was not to last, and I was vividly reminded of my own hypercritical judgement of my parents throughout my undergraduate years at college!)
    Last edited by HERO; 10-27-2012 at 07:32 AM.
    “Must get that Capel street library book renewed or they’ll write to
    Kearney, my garantor. Reincarnation: that’s the word.

    — Some people believe, he said, that we go on living in another body
    after death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived
    before on the earth thousands of years ago or some other planet. They say we
    have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives.

    The sluggish cream wound curdling spirals through her tea. Better remind
    her of the word: metempsychosis. An example would be better.”

    —from Ulysses by James Joyce

  21. #21
    jouziou's Avatar
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    totally iei, especially from vi

  22. #22
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  23. #23
    Samuel the Gabriel H. MisterNi's Avatar
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    I remember reading her biography in high school and she comes off as a completely neurotic EII with IEI being a distant second. Typing her is kind of difficult though because she's one of those famous persons who's hard to type because she's had such a messed up life and suffered from life-long depression which is probably the reason why her life turned out the way it did.

    IEE Ne Creative Type

    Some and role lovin too. () I too...

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    Sylvia Plath is my favorite poet, I love Daddy the most. I always thought of her as an SLE-ti sub. She looks alot like my mom. Also, her voice seems too commanding to be an IEI.
    EIE tritype 5w4, 4w5, 9w1

    As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.
    Carl Jung, "Memories, Dreams, Reflections", 1962

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    I’ve changed my mind. I now think that Sylvia Plath might be Fe-INFp 4w3? sp/sx (Normalizing subtype?) [INFp-ISTj or INFp-ISFj]. Although to be honest, I wouldn't completely rule out SLE. Either way, she's definitely Beta Irrational, in my opinion. I think my favorite poem of hers is probably I Am Vertical.

    - from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath; pp. 1-3 (Chapter One): It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. I’m stupid about executions. The idea of being electrocuted makes me sick, and that’s all there was to read about in the papers – goggle-eyed headlines staring up at me on every street corner and at the fusty, peanut-smelling mouth of every subway. It had nothing to do with me, but I couldn’t help wondering what it would be like, being burned alive all along your nerves.
    I thought it must be the worst thing in the world.
    New York was bad enough. By nine in the morning the fake, country-wet freshness that somehow seeped in overnight evaporated like the tail end of a sweet dream. Mirage-grey at the bottom of their granite canyons, the hot streets wavered in the sun, the car tops sizzled and glittered, and the dry, cindery dust blew into my eyes and down my throat.
    I kept hearing about the Rosenbergs over the radio and at the office till I couldn’t get them out of my mind. It was like the first time I saw a cadaver. For weeks afterwards, the cadaver’s head – or what there was left of it – floated up behind my eggs and bacon at breakfast and behind the face of Buddy Willard, who was responsible for my seeing it in the first place, and pretty soon I felt as though I were carrying that cadaver’s head around with me on a string, like some black, noseless balloon stinking of vinegar.
    I knew something was wrong with me that summer, because all I could think about was the Rosenbergs and how stupid I’d been to buy all those uncomfortable, expensive clothes, hanging limp as fish in my closet, and how all the little successes I’d totted up so happily at college fizzled to nothing outside the slick marble and plate-glass fronts along Madison Avenue.
    I was supposed to be having the time of my life.
    I was supposed to be the envy of thousands of other college girls just like me all over America who wanted nothing more than to be tripping about in those same size seven patent leather shoes I’d bought in Bloomingdale’s one lunch hour with a black patent leather belt and black patent leather pocket-book to match. And when my picture came out in the magazine the twelve of us were working on – drinking martinis in a skimpy, imitation silver-lame bodice stuck on to a big, fat cloud of white tulle, on some Starlight Roof, in the company of several anonymous young men with all-American bone structures hired or loaned for the occasion – everybody would think I must be having a real whirl.
    Look what can happen in this country, they’d say. A girl lives in some out-of-the-way town for nineteen years, so poor she can’t afford a magazine, and then she gets a scholarship to college and wins a prize here and a prize there and ends up steering New York like her own private car.
    Only I wasn’t steering anything, not even myself. I just bumped from my hotel to work and to parties and from parties to my hotel and back to work like a numb trolley-bus. I guess I should have been excited the way most of the other girls were, but I couldn’t get myself to react. 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.

    - from the Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath (Edited by Ted Hughes); pp. 14-16 (Introduction by Ted Hughes): Some time around Christmas 1962, she gathered most of what are now known as the ‘Ariel’ poems in a black spring binder, and arranged them in a careful sequence. (At the time, she pointed out that it began with the word ‘Love’ and ended with the word ‘Spring’ . . .) This collection of hers excluded almost everything she had written between The Colossus and July 1962 – or two and a half years’ work. She had her usual trouble with a title. On the title-page of her manuscript The Rival is replaced by A Birthday Present which is replaced by Daddy. It was only a short time before she died that she altered the title again, to Ariel.
    The Ariel eventually published in 1965 was a somewhat different volume from the one she had planned. It incorporated most of the dozen or so poems she had gone on to write in 1963, though she herself, recognizing the different inspiration of these new pieces, regarded them as the beginnings of a third book. It omitted some of the more personally aggressive poems from 1962, and might have omitted one or two more if she had not already published them herself in magazines – so that by 1965 they were widely known. The collection that appeared was my eventual compromise between publishing a large bulk of her work – including much of the post-Colossus but pre-Ariel verse – and introducing her late work more cautiously, printing perhaps only twenty poems to begin with. (Several advisers had felt that the violent contradictory feelings expressed in those pieces might prove hard for the reading public to take. In one sense, as it turned out, this apprehension showed some insight.)
    A further collection, Crossing the Water (1971), contained most of the poems written between the two earlier books; and the same year the final collection, Winter Trees, was published, containing eighteen uncollected poems of the late period together with her verse play for radio, Three Women, which had been written in early 1962.
    The aim of the present complete edition, which contains a numbered sequence of the 224 poems written after 1956 together with a further 50 poems chosen from her pre-1956 work, is to bring Sylvia Plath’s poetry together in one volume, including the various uncollected and unpublished pieces, and to set everything in as true a chronological order as is possible, so that the whole progress and achievement of this unusual poet will become accessible to readers.

    The manuscripts on which this collection is based fall roughly into three phases, and each has presented slightly different problems to the editor.
    The first phase might be called her juvenilia and the first slight problem here was to decide where it ended. A logical division occurs, conveniently, at the end of 1955, just after the end of her twenty-third year. The 220 or more poems written before this are of interest mainly to specialists. Sylvia Plath had set these pieces (many of them from her early teens) firmly behind her and would certainly never have republished them herself. Nevertheless, quite a few seem worth preserving for the general reader. At their best, they are as distinctive and as finished as anything she wrote later. They can be intensely artificial, but they are always lit with her unique excitement. And that sense of a deep mathematical inevitability in the sound and texture of her lines was well developed quite early. One can see here, too, how exclusively her writing depended on a supercharged system of inner symbols and images, an enclosed cosmic circus. If that could have been projected visually, the substance and patterning of these poems would have made very curious mandalas. As poems, they are always inspired high jinks, but frequently a bit more. And even at their weakest they help chart the full acceleration towards her final take-off. [Emphasis mine]

    - pp. 309-310 [Juvenilia (To a Jilted Lover)]:

    To a Jilted Lover

    Cold on my narrow cot I lie
    and in sorrow look
    through my window-square of black:

    figured in the midnight sky,
    a mosaic of stars
    diagrams the falling years,

    while from the moon, my lover’s eye
    chills me to death
    with radiance of his frozen faith.

    Once I wounded him with so
    small a thorn
    I never thought his flesh would burn

    or that the heat within would grow
    until he stood
    incandescent as a god;

    now there is nowhere I can go
    to hide from him:
    moon and sun reflects his flame.

    In the morning all shall be
    the same again:
    stars pale before the angry dawn;

    the gilded cock will turn for me
    the rack of time
    until the peak of noon has come

    and by that glare, my love will see
    how I am still
    blazing in my golden hell.

    - The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath; pp. 22-24 (Chapter Three): Arrayed on the Ladies’ Day banquet table were yellow-green avocado pear halves stuffed with crabmeat and mayonnaise, and platters of rare roast beef and cold chicken, and every so often a cut-glass bowl heaped with black caviar. I hadn’t had time to eat any breakfast at the hotel cafeteria that morning, except for a cup of over-stewed coffee so bitter it made my nose curl, and I was starving.
    Before I came to New York I’d never eaten out in a proper restaurant. I don’t count Howard Johnson’s, where I only had French fries and cheeseburgers and vanilla frappes with people like Buddy Willard. I’m not sure why it is, but I love food more than just about anything else. No matter how much I eat, I never put on weight. With one exception I’ve been the same weight for ten years.
    My favourite dishes are full of butter and cheese and sour cream. In New York we had so many free luncheons with people on the magazine and various visiting celebrities I developed the habit of running my eye down those huge, handwritten menus, where a tiny side-dish of peas cost fifty or sixty cents, until I’d picked the richest, most expensive dishes and ordered a string of them.
    We were always taken out on expense accounts, so I never felt guilty. I made a point of eating so fast I never kept the other people waiting who generally ordered only chef’s salad and grapefruit juice because they were trying to reduce. Almost everybody I met in New York was trying to reduce.
    ‘I want to welcome the prettiest, smartest bunch of young ladies our staff has yet had the good luck to meet,’ the plump, bald master-of-ceremonies wheezed into his lapel microphone. ‘This banquet is just a small sample of the hospitality our Food Testing Kitchens here on Ladies’ Day would like to offer in appreciation for your visit.’
    A delicate, ladylike spatter of applause, and we all sat down at the enormous linen-draped table.
    There were eleven of us girls from the magazine, together with most of our supervising editors, and the whole staff of the Ladies’ Day Food Testing Kitchens in hygienic white smocks, neat hair-nets and flawless make-up of a uniform peach-pie colour.
    There were only eleven of us, because Doreen was missing. They had set her place next to mine for some reason, and the chair stayed empty. I saved her place-card for her – a pocket mirror with ‘Doreen’ painted along the top of it in lacy script and a wreath of frosted daisies around the edge, framing the silver hole where her face would show.
    Doreen was spending the day with Lenny Shepherd. She spent most of her free time with Lenny Shepherd now.
    In the hour before our luncheon at Ladies’ Day – the big women’s magazine that features lush double-page spreads of technicolour meals, with a different theme and locale each month – we had been shown around the endless glossy kitchens and seen how difficult it is to photograph apple pie a la mode under bright lights because the ice-cream keeps melting and has to be propped up from behind with tooth-picks and changed every time it starts looking too soppy.
    The sight of all the food stacked in those kitchens made me dizzy. It’s not that we hadn’t enough to eat at home, it’s just that my grandmother always cooked economy joints and economy meat-loafs and had the habit of saying, the minute you lifted the first forkful to your mouth, ‘I hope you enjoy that, it cost forty-one cents a pound,’ which always made me feel I was somehow eating pennies instead of Sunday roast.

    - Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath; pp. 195-196 [1962 (Apprehensions)]:


    There is this white wall, above which the sky creates itself—
    Infinite, green, utterly untouchable.
    Angels swim in it, and the stars, in indifference also.
    They are my medium.
    The sun dissolves on this wall, bleeding its lights.

    A gray wall now, clawed and bloody.
    Is there no way out of the mind?
    Steps at my back spiral into a well.
    There are no trees or birds in this world,
    There is only a sourness.

    This red wall winces continually:
    A red fist, opening and closing,
    Two gray, papery bags—
    This is what I am made of, this and a terror
    Of being wheeled off under crosses and a rain of pietas.

    On a black wall, unidentifiable birds
    Swivel their heads and cry.
    There is no talk of immortality among these!
    Cold blanks approach us:
    They move in a hurry.

    28 May 1962

    - The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath; pp. 26-34 (Chapter Three): I don’t know if Hilda could read, but she made startling hats. She went to a special school for making hats in New York and every day she wore a new hat to work, constructed by her own hands out of bits of straw or fur or ribbon or veiling in subtle, bizarre shades.
    ‘That’s amazing,’ I said. ‘Amazing.’ I missed Doreen. She would have murmured some fine, scalding remark about Hilda’s miraculous furpiece to cheer me up.
    I felt very low. I had been unmasked only that morning by Jay Cee herself, and I felt now that all the uncomfortable suspicions I had about myself were coming true, and I couldn’t hide the truth much longer. After nineteen years of running after good marks and prizes and grants of one sort and another, I was letting up, slowing down, dropping clean out of the race.
    ‘Why didn’t you come along to the fur show with us?’ Betsy asked. I had the impression she was repeating herself, and that she’d asked me the same question a minute ago, only I couldn’t have been listening. ‘Did you go off with Doreen?’
    ‘No,’ I said, ‘I wanted to go to the fur show, but Jay Cee called up and made me come into the office.’ That wasn’t quite true about wanting to go to the show, but I tried to convince myself now that it was true, so I could be really wounded about what Jay Cee had done.
    I told Betsy how I had been lying in bed that morning planning to go to the fur show. What I didn’t tell her was that Doreen had come into my room earlier and said, ‘What do you want to go to that assy show for, Lenny and I are going to Coney Island, so why don’t you come along? Lenny can get you a nice fellow, the day’s shot to hell anyhow with that luncheon and then the film premiere in the afternoon, so nobody’ll miss us.’
    For a minute I was tempted. The show certainly did seem stupid. I have never cared for furs. What I decided to do in the end was to lie in bed as long as I wanted to and then go to Central Park and spend the day lying in the grass, the longest grass I could find in that bald, duck-ponded wilderness.
    I told Doreen I would not go to the show or the luncheon or the film premiere, but that I would not go to Coney Island either, I would stay in bed. After Doreen left, I wondered why I couldn’t go the whole way doing what I should any more. This made me sad and tired. Then I wondered why I couldn’t go the whole way doing what I shouldn’t, the way Doreen did, and this made me even sadder and more tired.
    I didn’t know what time it was, but I’d heard the girls bustling and calling in the hall and getting ready for the fur show, and then I’d heard the hall go still, and as I lay on my back in bed staring up at the blank, white ceiling the stillness seemed to grow bigger and bigger until I felt my eardrums would burst with it. Then the phone rang.
    I stared at the phone for a minute. The receiver shook a bit in its bone-coloured cradle, so I could tell it was really ringing. I thought I might have given my phone number to somebody at a dance or a party and then forgotten clean about it. I lifted the receiver and spoke in a husky, receptive voice.
    ‘Jay Cee here,’ Jay Cee rapped out with brutal promptitude. “I wondered if you happened to be planning to come into the office today?’
    I sank down into the sheets. I couldn’t understand why Jay Cee thought I’d be coming into the office. We had these mimeographed schedule cards so we could keep track of all our activities, and we spent a lot of mornings and afternoons away from the office going to affairs in town. Of course, some of the affairs were optional.
    There was quite a pause. Then I said meekly, ‘I thought I was going to the fur show.’ Of course I hadn’t thought any such thing, but I couldn’t figure out what else to say.
    ‘I told her I thought I was going to the fur show,’ I said to Betsy. ‘But she told me to come into the office, she wanted to have a little talk with me, and there was some work to do.’
    ‘Oh-oh!’ Betsy said sympathetically. She must have seen the tears that plopped down into my dessert dish of meringue and brandy ice-cream, because she pushed over her own untouched dessert and I started absently on that when I’d finished my own. I felt a bit awkward about the tears, but they were real enough. Jay Cee had said some terrible things to me.

    When I made my wan entrance into the office at about ten o’clock, Jay Cee stood up and came round her desk to shut the door, and I sat in the swivel chair in front of my typewriter table facing her, and she sat in the swivel chair behind her desk facing me, with the window full of potted plants, shelf after shelf of them, springing up at her back like a tropical garden.
    ‘Doesn’t your work interest you, Esther?’
    ‘Oh, it does, it does,’ I said. ‘It interests me very much.’ I felt like yelling the words, as if that might make them more convincing, but I controlled myself.
    All my life I’d told myself studying and reading and writing and working like mad was what I wanted to do, and it actually seemed to be true, I did everything well enough and got all A’s, and by the time I made it to college nobody could stop me.
    I was college correspondent for the town Gazette and editor of the literary magazine and secretary of Honour Board, which deals with academic and social offences and punishments – a popular office, and I had a well-known woman poet and professor on the faculty championing me for graduate school at the biggest universities in the east, and promises of full scholarships all the way, and now I was apprenticed to the best editor on any intellectual fashion magazine, and what did I do but balk and balk like a dull cart horse?
    ‘I’m very interested in everything.’ The words fell with a hollow flatness on to Jay Cee’s desk, like so many wooden nickels.
    ‘I’m glad of that,’ Jay Cee said a bit waspishly. ‘You can learn a lot in this month on the magazine, you know, if you just roll up your shirt-cuffs. The girl who was here before you didn’t bother with any of the fashion show stuff. She went straight from this office on to Time.’
    ‘My!’ I said, in the same sepulchral tone. ‘That was quick!’
    ‘Of course, you have another year at college yet,’ Jay Cee went on a little more mildly. ‘What do you have in mind after you graduate?’
    What I always thought I had in mind was getting some big scholarship to graduate school or a grant to study all over Europe, and then I thought I’d be a professor and write books of poems or write books of poems and be an editor of some sort. Usually I had these plans on the tip of my tongue.
    ‘I don’t really know,’ I heard myself say. I felt a deep shock, hearing myself say that, because the minute I said it, I knew it was true.
    It sounded true, and I recognized it, the way you recognize some nondescript person that’s been hanging around your door for ages and then suddenly comes up and introduces himself as your real father and looks exactly like you, so you know he really is your father, and the person you thought all your life was your father is a sham.
    ‘I don’t really know.’
    ‘You’ll never get anywhere like that.’ Jay Cee paused. ‘What languages do you have?’
    ‘Oh, I can read a bit of French, I guess, and I’ve always wanted to learn German.’ I’d been telling people I’d always wanted to learn German for about five years.
    My mother spoke German during her childhood in America and was stoned for it during the First World War by the children at school. My German-speaking father, dead since I was nine, came from some manic-depressive hamlet in the black heart of Prussia. My younger brother was at that moment on the Experiment in International Living in Berlin and speaking German like a native.
    What I didn’t say was that each time I picked up a German dictionary or a German book, the very sight of those dense, black, barbed-wire letters made my mind shut like a clam.
    ‘I’ve always thought I’d like to go into publishing.’ I tried to recover a thread that might lead me back to my old, bright salesmanship. ‘I guess what I’ll do is apply at some publishing house.’
    ‘You ought to read French and German,’ Jay Cee said mercilessly, ‘and probably several other languages as well, Spanish and Italian – better still, Russian. Hundreds of girls flood into New York every June thinking they’ll be editors. You need to offer something more than the run-of-the mill person. You better learn some languages.’
    I hadn’t the heart to tell Jay Cee there wasn’t one scrap of space on my senior year schedule to learn languages in. I was taking one of those honours programmes that teaches you to think independently, and except for a course in Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and a seminar in advanced poetry-composition, I would spend my whole time writing on some obscure theme in the works of James Joyce. I hadn’t picked out my theme yet, because I hadn’t got round to reading Finnegans Wake, but my professor was very excited about my thesis and had promised to give me some leads on images about twins.
    ‘I’ll see what I can do,’ I told Jay Cee. ‘I probably might just fit in one of those double-barrelled, accelerated courses in elementary German they’ve rigged up.’ I thought at the time I might actually do this. I had a way of persuading my Class Dean to let me do irregular things. She regarded me as a sort of interesting experiment.
    At college I had to take a required course in physics and chemistry. I had already taken a course in botany and done very well. I never answered one test question wrong the whole year, and for a while I toyed with the idea of being a botanist and studying the wild grasses in Africa or the South American rain forests, because you can win big grants to study off-beat things like that in queer areas much more easily than winning grants to study art in Italy or English in England, there’s not so much competition.
    Botany was fine, because I loved cutting up leaves and putting them under the microscope and drawing diagrams of bread mould and the odd, heart-shaped leaf in the sex cycle of the fern, it seemed so real to me.
    The day I went into physics class it was death.
    A short dark man with a high, lisping voice, named Mr Manzi, stood in front of the class in a tight blue suit holding a little wooden ball. He put the ball on a steep grooved slide and let it run down to the bottom. Then he started talking about let a equal acceleration and let t equal time and suddenly he was scribbling letters and numbers and equals signs all over the blackboard and my mind went dead.
    I took the physics book back to my dormitory. It was a huge book on porous mimeographed paper – four hundred pages long with no drawings or photographs, only diagrams and formulas – between brick-red cardboard covers. This book was written by Mr Manzi to explain physics to college girls, and if it worked on us he would try to have it published.
    Well, I studied those formulas, I went to class and watched balls roll down slides and listened to bells ring and by the end of the semester most of the other girls had failed and I had a straight A. I heard Mr Manzi saying to a bunch of the girls who were complaining that the course was too hard, ‘No, it can’t be too hard, because one girl got a straight A.’ ‘Who is it? Tell us,’ they said, but he shook his head and didn’t say anything and gave me a sweet little conspiring smile.
    That’s what gave me the idea of escaping the next semester of chemistry. I may have made a straight A in physics, but I was panic-struck. Physics made me sick the whole time I learned it. What I couldn’t stand was this shrinking everything into letters and numbers. Instead of leaf shapes and enlarged diagrams of the holes that leaves breathe through and fascinating words like carotene and xanthophyll on the blackboard, there were these hideous, cramped, scorpion-lettered formulas in Mr Manzi’s special red chalk.
    I knew chemistry would be worse, because I’d seen a big chart of the ninety-odd elements hung up in the chemistry lab, and all the perfectly good words like gold and silver and cobalt and aluminium were shortened to ugly abbreviations with different decimal numbers after them. If I had to strain my brain with any more of that stuff I would go mad. I would fail outright. It was only by a horrible effort of will that I had dragged myself through the first half of the year.
    So I went to my Class Dean with a clever plan.
    My plan was that I needed the time to take a course in Shakespeare, since I was, after all, an English major. She knew and I knew perfectly well I would get a straight A again in the chemistry course, so what was the point of my taking the exams, why couldn’t I just go to the classes and look on and take it all in and forget about marks or credits? It was a case of honour among honourable people, and the content meant more than the form, and marks were really a bit silly anyway, weren’t they, when you knew you’d always get an A? My plan was strengthened by the fact that the college had just dropped the second year of required science for the classes after me anyway, so my class was the last to suffer under the old ruling.
    Mr Manzi was in perfect agreement with my plan. I think it flattered him that I enjoyed his classes so much I would take them for no materialistic reason like credit and an A, but for the sheer beauty of chemistry itself. I thought it was quite ingenious of me to suggest sitting in on the chemistry course even after I’d changed over to Shakespeare. It was quite an unnecessary gesture and made it seem I simply couldn’t bear to give chemistry up.
    Of course, I would never have succeeded with this scheme if I hadn’t made that A in the first place. And if my Class Dean had known how scared and depressed I was, and how I seriously contemplated desperate remedies such as getting a doctor’s certificate that I was unfit to study chemistry, the formulas made me dizzy and so on, I’m sure she wouldn’t have listened to me for a minute, but would have made me take the course regardless.
    As it happened, the Faculty Board passed my petition, and my Class Dean told me later that several of the professors were touched by it. They took it as a real step in intellectual maturity.
    I had to laugh when I thought about the rest of that year. I went to the chemistry class five times a week and didn’t miss a single one. Mr Manzi stood at the bottom of the big, rickety old amphitheatre, making blue flames and red flares and clouds of yellow stuff by pouring the contents of one test-tube into another, and I shut his voice out of my ears by pretending it was only a mosquito in the distance and sat back enjoying the bright lights and the coloured fires and wrote page after page of villanelles and sonnets.
    Mr Manzi would glance at me now and then and see me writing, and send up a sweet little appreciative smile. I guess he thought I was writing down all those formulas not for exam time, like the other girls, but because his presentation fascinated me so much I couldn’t help it.

    - Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath; pp. 22-23 [1956 (Pursuit)]:


    Dans le fond des forets votre image me suit. -- RACINE

    There is a panther stalks me down:
    One day I’ll have my death of him;
    His greed has set the woods aflame,
    He prowls more lordly than the sun.
    Most soft, most suavely glides that step,
    Advancing always at my back;
    From gaunt hemlock, rooks croak havoc:
    The hunt is on, and sprung the trap.
    Flayed by thorns I trek the rocks,
    Haggard through the hot white noon.
    Along red network of his veins
    What fires run, what craving wakes?

    Insatiate, he ransacks the land
    Condemned by our ancestral fault,
    Crying: blood, let blood be spilt;
    Meat must glut his mouth’s raw wound.
    Keen the rending teeth and sweet
    The singeing fury of his fur;
    His kisses parch, each paw’s a briar,
    Doom consummates that appetite.
    In the wake of this fierce cat,
    Kindled like torches for his joy,
    Charred and ravened women lie,
    Become his starving body’s bait.

    Now hills hatch menace, spawning shade;
    Midnight cloaks the sultry grove;
    The black marauder, hauled by love
    On fluent haunches, keeps my speed.
    Behind snarled thickets of my eyes
    Lurks the lithe one; in dreams’ ambush
    Bright those claws that mar the flesh
    And hungry, hungry, those taut thighs.
    His ardor snares me, lights the trees,
    And I run flaring in my skin;
    What lull, what cool can lap me in
    When burns and brands that yellow gaze?

    I hurl my heart to halt his pace,
    To quench his thirst I squander blood;
    He eats, and still his need seeks food,
    Compels a total sacrifice.
    His voice waylays me, spells a trance,
    The gutted forest falls to ash;
    Appalled by secret want, I rush
    From such assault of radiance.
    Entering the tower of my fears,
    I shut my doors on that dark guilt,
    I bolt the door, each door I bolt.
    Blood quickens, gonging in my ears:

    The panther’s tread is on the stairs,
    Coming up and up the stairs.

    - The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath; pp. 49-51 (Chapter Five): I decided not to go down to the cafeteria for breakfast. It would only mean getting dressed, and what was the point of getting dressed if you were staying in bed for the morning? I could have called down and asked for a breakfast tray in my room, I guess, but then I would have to tip the person who brought it up and I never knew how much to tip. I’d had some very unsettling experiences trying to tip people in New York.
    When I first arrived at the Amazon a dwarfish, bald man in a bellhop’s uniform carried my suitcase up in the elevator and unlocked my room for me. Of course I rushed immediately to the window and looked out to see what the view was. After a while I was aware of this bellhop turning on the hot and cold taps in my washbowl and saying ‘This is the hot and this is the cold’ and switching on the radio and telling me the names of all the New York stations and I began to get uneasy, so I kept my back to him and said firmly, ‘Thank you for bringing up my suitcase.’
    ‘Thank you thank you thank you. Ha!’ he said in a very nasty insinuating tone, and before I could wheel round to see what had come over him he was gone, shutting the door behind him with a rude slam.
    Later, when I told Doreen about his curious behaviour, she said, ‘You ninny, he wanted his tip.’
    I asked how much I should have given and she said a quarter at least and thirty-five cents if the suitcase was too heavy. Now I could have carried that suitcase to my room perfectly well by myself, only the bellhop seemed so eager to do it that I let him. I thought that sort of service came along with what you paid for your hotel room.
    I hate handing over money to people for doing what I could just as easily do myself, it makes me nervous.
    Doreen said ten per cent was what you should tip a person, but I somehow never had the right change and I’d have felt awfully silly giving somebody half a dollar and saying, ‘Fifteen cents of this is a tip for you, please give me thirty-five cents back.’
    The first time I took a taxi in New York I tipped the driver ten cents. The fare was a dollar, so I thought ten cents was exactly right and gave the driver my dime with a little flourish and a smile. But he only held it in the palm of his hand and stared and stared at it, and when I stepped out of the cab, hoping I had not handed him a Canadian dime by mistake, he started yelling, ‘Lady I gotta live like you and everybody else,’ in a loud voice which scared me so much I broke into a run. Luckily he was stopped at a traffic light or I think he would have driven along beside me yelling in that embarrassing way.
    When I asked Doreen about this she said the tipping percentage might well have risen from ten to fifteen per cent since she was last in New York. Either that, or that particular cab-driver was an out and out louse.

    Sylvia Plath:
    INFp --- --- Poet
    using 2 subtypes: Fe-INFp (Ethical Poet)
    using 4 subtypes: N-INFp (Normalizing Poet)
    using 8 subtypes: Ti-INFp (Systematic Poet)
    using 16 subtypes: INFp-ISTj (Structural/Pragmatic Poet)
    Last edited by HERO; 10-27-2012 at 11:37 AM.
    “Must get that Capel street library book renewed or they’ll write to
    Kearney, my garantor. Reincarnation: that’s the word.

    — Some people believe, he said, that we go on living in another body
    after death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived
    before on the earth thousands of years ago or some other planet. They say we
    have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives.

    The sluggish cream wound curdling spirals through her tea. Better remind
    her of the word: metempsychosis. An example would be better.”

    —from Ulysses by James Joyce

  26. #26
    ■■■■■■ Radio's Avatar
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    I have no idea but my impression was always Se-ISFj or Ni-INFp.

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    My immediate thought is IEI, but I could be convinced otherwise if I got information that didn't work with that.
    It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.
    -Mark Twain

    You can't wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.

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    Glorious Member mu4's Avatar
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    I think she is EII or ESI. I never felt anything in her writings, it's like a wilted flower, desiccated and fragile, sitting in a still empty room, waiting for the walls to come down so it can be blown away by the outside world.

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    My resplendent identical(s).

    The new/revised list in order of likelihood:

    1. Ni-INFp
    2. Se-ISFj
    3. INFj (EII)
    4. SEE (ESFp)
    5. Ni-ENFj
    6. ESTp (SLE)
    7. Fi-ENFp
    8. SLI (ISTp)
    9. INTp (ILI)
    Last edited by HERO; 10-27-2012 at 07:59 AM.
    “Must get that Capel street library book renewed or they’ll write to
    Kearney, my garantor. Reincarnation: that’s the word.

    — Some people believe, he said, that we go on living in another body
    after death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived
    before on the earth thousands of years ago or some other planet. They say we
    have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives.

    The sluggish cream wound curdling spirals through her tea. Better remind
    her of the word: metempsychosis. An example would be better.”

    —from Ulysses by James Joyce

  30. #30

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    Originally Posted by polikujm
    She's INFj.

    I dont see this typing especially wrong... IEI, EII, ESI, LIE-Ni ? Imo gamma is more likely than beta, I dont see many trace of beta-like lyrics, wich is often "descriptive thinking" too, but in a REALLY more symbolical manner. Do Ni- demonstrative make more sense than acc or crea here ? I think thats highly possible.
    "The final delusion is the belief that one has lost all delusion."

    -- Maurice Chapelain

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    I'm reading a biography of her right now and she seems super neurotic..."clean, bright" and "perfectionist" being some descriptions of her.

    I'm not sure about her type but I don't particularly love her poems, although I find the late ones "Ariel" fascinating and powerful in their own way. I think there's a lot to be learned from her (the voice, the power), and I teach her to my students too, but I just can't fully get behind her as a poet. I find her emotionally...dishonest? That's not the right word... It's as if she builds force out of something that isn't totally real--she makes the artifice speak for itself, which is an admirable feat... Her poems consume themselves because they are constantly feeding on their own energy, rather than coming from somewhere...else, i.e. an outside force of emotion that drives and necessitates them, if that makes sense. It's what makes her simultaneously powerful and distressing, as well as in a certain way hollow.

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    fka lungs ashlesha's Avatar
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    i havent really read anything of hers but i just came across this quote and if this isn't Ni then i give up completely.

    “There are times when a feeling of expectancy comes to me, as if something is there, beneath the surface of my understanding, waiting for me to grasp it. It is the same tantalizing sensation when you almost remember a name, but don’t quite reach it. I can feel it when I think of human beings, of the hints of evolution suggested by the removal of wisdom teeth, the narrowing of the jaw no longer needed to chew such roughage as it was accustomed to; the gradual disappearance of hair from the human body; the adjustment of the human eye to fine print, the swift, colored motion of the twentieth century. The feeling comes, vague and nebulous, when I consider the prolonged adolescence of our species; the rites of birth, marriage and death; all the primitive, barbaric ceremonies streamlined to modern times. Almost, I think, the unreasoning, bestial purity was best. Oh, something is there, waiting for me. Perhaps someday the revelation will burst in upon me and I will see the other side of this monumental grotesque joke. And then I’ll laugh. And then I’ll know what life is.”

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    IEI to the maxx

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    Default Sylvia Plath

    - from THE DEATH AND LIFE OF SYLVIA PLATH by Ronald Hayman; book flap: Sylvia Plath has previously been portrayed as a woman so neurotic and moody that no husband could have put up with her for long. The truth is not so simple.
    Was her death inevitable? She was twenty when she made her first suicide attempt – her novel The Bell Jar describes events leading up to it and the electroconvulsive therapy administered to her – while the theme of death ran through her poetry. ‘Maybe it’s an irrelevant accident,’ wrote Robert Lowell, ‘that she actually carried out the death she predicted...but somehow her death is part of the imaginative risk.’ Ronald Hayman gives the first convincing account of the way her deep-seated death-wish joined forces with cruel circumstances she could survive for only four months.
    During the worst winter England has had since the war, she was living alone with two very young children, while Ted Hughes was having an affair with another woman, Assia Wevill. If Sylvia Plath had been as famous then as she became posthumously, investigative journalists would have probed remorselessly into the adulterous relationship, but it remained under wraps, and little has been known about Assia Wevill, who in 1967 bore Ted Hughes a daughter, Shura. In 1969 Assia also killed herself, but whereas Sylvia had let her two young children survive, Assia killed Shura too.

    - p. xix (Foreword): This book can neither answer all the questions it raises nor solve all the mysteries it investigates. My hope is that it will help to correct some of the imbalance created by writers who have been unfair to her, and to inaugurate a new phase in her posthumous life.

    - pp. 43-46 (FOUR—The Hostile Self):

    It was as if what I wanted to kill wasn’t in that skin or the thin blue pulse that jumped under my thumb, but somewhere else, deeper, more secret, and a whole lot harder to get at.
    --The Bell Jar

    In the space for 4 July 1953 on her wall calendar Sylvia wrote the word ‘decision’; on 24 August she tried to kill herself. The other entries for 4 July show it to have been a day on which she intended to play tennis, clean the car and meet Gordon Lameyer. To delay for seven weeks between the decision and the action was to give herself plenty of time in which she could have changed her mind, but the idea had been in her mind long before 4 July. There’s no single turning point at which she can be said to have become suicidal, and to locate a point at which it might have been predictable that she’d sooner or later try to kill herself, it would be necessary to go back a long way, though not quite so far as she went herself.
    Without quite claiming to have attempted suicide when she was two, she told a story about learning to crawl. After being put down on the beach, she made for the coming wave, and Aurelia picked her up by her heels just as she had penetrated the ‘wall of green’. What would have happened if she hadn’t been stopped? Would she have survived like a mermaid in a looking-glass world, breathing with gills that had no need to develop on dry land?* Her mythicising reconstruction of the incident hints at a temptation she didn’t always resist – to believe in a Utopian alternative to the real world. Idealising the self, she saw surrounding circumstances as despicably defective, inadequate to house it. Something would have to be destroyed before it was possible to live in a purer, more fulfilling way.

    * ‘Ocean 1212W’ in Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams pp 117-24

    Her account of the beach incident is characteristic of her prose and verse which mixes facts from her early life with fiction: whatever it was that happened, the instinct at work in the infant was different from what the adult makes of it. But a dialectic was at work. Though she was never in real danger, the episode seemed to have brought her close to death, but this interpretation was more dangerous than the event because it revealed and helped to consolidate a habit of thinking which conferred glamour on death, implying an equation between non-existence and a Utopian alternative to the real world. Touching so often on the possibility of suicide, her verse and prose both made it more tempting. She may say that ‘Daddy’ is about a girl with an Electra complex and that ‘Lady Lazarus’ is about a woman with an exceptional talent for dying and being reborn, but the separation between the characters and their author is precariously incomplete. There was a two-way traffic between the writing and the living.
    The suicide attempt of August 1953 was only one of several self-destructive rehearsals for the suicide of 1963. Sylvia had a ski-ing accident in January 1953. During 1962 she cut off the tip of her thumb in the kitchen and drove her car off the road in what she described as an attempt to kill herself. Sometimes the compulsion to take high risks is the residue from an early deprivation of love, and it may signal a desire to be looked after, once again, like a child.
    Devoted though Aurelia had been as a mother, her goodness had often seemed as hard as iron. One of the phrases Sylvia noted at the end of a diary she kept when she was thirteen was about a voice which hammered back and forth until it had her nailed down. And though it was Aurelia who inspired her to function as an artist, there was a desperation in all those early attempts to deserve love by winning distinction. By the age of seventeen she’d collected more than fifty rejection slips, and before she had a short story accepted for publication she’d made some forty-four submissions. She wrote, drew, painted, danced, played the piano, but the prolific creativity was compulsive.
    One of the motivating forces was the drive to compete with Warren for Aurelia’s love and attention, and by the age of eleven Sylvia was also possessed by an exceptionally strong need to talk to herself in a diary. Her first diary was given to her as a Christmas present in 1943. She immediately established a personal relationship with it, addressing it in the second person when she told it she’d come home and caught up with it. Though there was enough space for her to write over a hundred words for each day, she didn’t leave a single line blank in the whole diary, and often crowded two lines into the space for one. Can a child of eleven ever have been a more devoted diarist? Already her appetite for self-dramatisation was insatiable. Diary-writing drops a safety curtain between narrator and performer. Without the long time-lapse involved in autobiography, the diary offers a comfortable space in which you have total control over your account of the experiences you controlled only partially while you were having them. The child was already finding on the empty spaces in her printed diaries the refuge that the adult Sylvia would find in her poetry.
    In his book The Divided Self R.D. Laing uses the term false-self system for the structure which comes into existence when a schizoid individual develops a series of ‘part-selves none of which is so fully developed as to have a comprehensive “personality” of its own’. It comes to feel as if the real self, only partially implicated in the actions of the false selves, is entitled to be critical of them, and even hostile, treating them as if they were other people. Cultivating her self-consciousness, Sylvia was exacerbating her lack of spontaneity and aggravating her sense of futility. When she came top of the class, won prizes, achieved precocious success as a writer, she felt intense pleasure in the short term, but the prestige failed to remedy her insecurity. In Laing’s account, the schizoid individual ‘would appear to be, in an unreal, impossible way, all persons and things to himself. The imagined advantages are safety for the true self, isolation and hence freedom from others, self-sufficiency and control.’ The disadvantages are that the project is impossible and that the inner world shut up inside the false-self system feels increasingly isolated and impoverished. The feeling of omnipotence is no defence against the overwhelming sense of emptiness. [R.D. Laing, The Divided Self, London 1960, pp 76-8]
    In her early diaries she was meticulous about chronicling experiences, listing presents, keeping cash accounts. In February 1944 she received two gifts of ten cents and one of fifty cents. She had an allowance of ten cents a week, but she received it only three times during the month, and she made a loss of $1.50, having started the month with six dollars and ending with $4.50.
    At fifteen she grew to her full height—five foot nine. In junior high school she’d joined the girl scouts. Eager for popularity, she was bewildered to find girls ran away giggling whenever she started to tell a story. It took her some time to find out the reason. Her fear of being abandoned by her friends had got her into a counterproductive habit of rambling long-windedness. [The Journals of Sylvia Plath p 56]
    She was sixteen when she wrote ‘To Ariadne’. Still bruised by the bereavement and still angry about it, the abandoned daughter can easily identify with the woman abandoned by Theseus. Her impotent rage is equalled only by the shrieking wind and the waves lashing against the shore. The sweetness of her loving words had turned to brine. She is outsung by the unmusical wind. The thirst for vengeance subsides into futility as the storm retreats, grumbling faintly, while the wind sobs along the beach.
    In poems, in her journals and in fiction the violence of the language is proportional to the force of the emotion which has been held back. In a letter to Eddie Cohen, a boy who without meeting her had struck up an intimate epistolary friendship with her, she describes herself as ‘scared and frozen’. While another date was driving back to Boston, his reflection in the driving mirror, the music from the car radio and the coloured lights flowed over her with ‘a screaming ache of pain’. Already she felt a strong urge to dam her life like a river, to alter its direction. She wanted to ‘stop it all, the whole monumental grotesque joke’. Poems and letters were ineffective as a counter-measure. She couldn’t explain what she was trying to resist, but she’d seen her mother crying desolately in the kitchen and, looking at Warren, she couldn’t believe his potential would ever be fulfilled.
    In manic-depressive alternation between exultant happiness and raging despair her mood swings were so abrupt and violent that ecstasy rubbed shoulders with agony, just as hatred for Aurelia jostled against love. After Sylvia started at Smith College in September 1950, she called herself one of the happiest girls in the world. She was seventeen, she was at the best women’s college in America, she was attractive, talented and capable of working hard enough to distinguish herself in the competitive student world, though in most ways she tried to disappear into the mainstream of student conformism. During the mid-fifties typical Smith undergraduates were eager to be recognisable as college girls. They wore the uniform of Bermuda shorts, knee-socks and shirts with button-down collars; they had their hair carefully styled to look casual. Sylvia cultivated the standard Smith look, even after she was moved from Haven House to Lawrence House, which tended to be less conformist, being one of the houses for scholarship girls. Rebelling against the Smith norms, some of the Lawrence girls modelled themselves on beatniks and went around in dirty jeans with bare feet. Sylvia disapproved of these rebels.

    - from The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath (Edited by Ted Hughes); pp. 90-91 (1958):

    The Ghost’s Leavetaking

    Enter the chilly no-man’s land of about
    Five o’clock in the morning, the no-color void
    Where the waking head rubbishes out the draggled lot
    Of sulfurous dreamscapes and obscure lunar conundrums
    Which seemed, when dreamed, to mean so profoundly much,

    Gets ready to face the ready-made creation
    Of chairs and bureaus and sleep-twisted sheets.
    This is the kingdom of the fading apparition,
    The oracular ghost who dwindles on pin-legs
    To a knot of laundry, with a classic bunch of sheets

    Upraised, as a hand, emblematic of farewell.
    At this joint between two worlds and two entirely
    Incompatible modes of time, the raw material
    Of our meat-and-potato thoughts assumes the nimbus
    Of ambrosial revelation. And so departs.

    Chair and bureau are the hieroglyphs
    Of some godly utterance wakened heads ignore:
    So these posed sheets, before they thin to nothing,
    Speak in sign language of a lost otherworld,
    A world we lose by merely waking up.

    Trailing its telltale tatters only at the outermost
    Fringe of mundane vision, this ghost goes
    Hand aloft, goodbye, goodbye, not down
    Into the rocky gizzard of the earth,
    But toward a region where our thick atmosphere

    Diminishes, and God knows what is there.
    A point of exclamation marks that sky
    In ringing orange like a stellar carrot.
    Its round period, displaced and green,
    Suspends beside it the first point, the starting

    Point of Eden, next the new moon’s curve.
    Go, ghost of our mother and father, ghost of us,
    And ghost of our dreams’ children, in those sheets
    Which signify our origin and end,
    To the cloud-cuckoo land of color wheels

    And pristine alphabets and cows that moo
    And moo as they jump over moons as new
    As that crisp cusp towards which you voyage now.
    Hail and farewell. Hello, goodbye. O keeper
    Of the profane grail, the dreaming skull.

    - from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath; pp. 110-114 (Chapter 9): “I’m so glad they’re going to die.”
    Hilda arched her cat-limbs in a yawn, buried her head in her arms on the conference table and went back to sleep. A wisp of bilious green straw perched on her brow like a tropical bird.
    Bile green. They were promoting it for fall, only Hilda, as usual, was half a year ahead of time. Bile green with black, bile green with white, bile green with nile green, its kissing cousin.
    Fashion blurbs, silver and full of nothing, sent up their fishy bubbles in my brain. They surfaced with a hollow pop.
    I’m so glad they’re going to die.
    I cursed the luck that had timed my arrival in the hotel cafeteria to coincide with Hilda’s. After a late night I felt too dull to think up the excuse that would take me back to my room for the glove, the handkerchief, the umbrella, the notebook I forgot. My penalty was the long, dead walk from the frosted glass doors of the Amazon to the strawberry-marble slab of our entry on Madison Avenue.
    Hilda moved like a mannequin the whole way.
    “That’s a lovely hat, did you make it?”
    I half expected Hilda to turn on me and say, “You sound sick,” but she only extended and then retracted her swanny neck.
    The night before I’d seen a play where the heroine was possessed by a dybbuk, and when the dybbuk spoke from her mouth its voice sounded so cavernous and deep you couldn’t tell whether it was a man or a woman. Well, Hilda’s voice sounded just like the voice of that dybbuk.
    She stared at her reflection in the glossed shop windows as if to make sure, moment by moment, that she continued to exist. The silence between us was so profound I thought part of it must be my fault.
    So I said, “Isn’t it awful about the Rosenbergs?”
    The Rosenbergs were to be electrocuted late that night.
    “Yes!” Hilda said, and at last I felt I had touched a human string in the cat’s cradle of her heart. It was only as the two of us waited for the others in the tomblike morning gloom of the conference room that Hilda amplified that Yes of hers.
    “It’s awful such people should be alive.”
    She yawned then, and her pale orange mouth opened on a large darkness. Fascinated, I stared at the blind cave behind her face until the two lips met and moved and the dybbuk spoke out of its hiding place, “I’m so glad they’re going to die.”

    “Come on, give us a smile.”
    I sat on the pink velvet loveseat in Jay Cee’s office, holding a paper rose and facing the magazine photographer. I was the last of the twelve to have my picture taken. I had tried concealing myself in the powder room, but it didn’t work. Betsy had spied my feet under the doors.
    I didn’t want my picture taken because I was going to cry. 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.
    This was the last round of photographs before the magazine went to press and we returned to Tulsa or Biloxi or Teaneck or Coos Bay or wherever we’d come from, and we were supposed to be photographed with props to show what we wanted to be.
    Betsy held an ear of corn to show she wanted to be a farmer’s wife, and Hilda held the bald, faceless head of a hatmaker’s dummy to show she wanted to design hats, and Doreen held a gold-embroidered sari to show she wanted to be a social worker in India (she didn’t really, she told me, she only wanted to get her hands on a sari).
    When they asked me what I wanted to be I said I didn’t know.
    “Oh, sure you know,” the photographer said.
    “She wants,” said Jay Cee wittily, “to be everything.”
    I said I wanted to be a poet.
    Then they scouted about for something for me to hold.
    Jay Cee suggested a book of poems, but the photographer said no, that was too obvious. It should be something that showed what inspired the poems. Finally Jay Cee unclipped the single, long-stemmed paper rose from her latest hat.
    The photographer fiddled with his hot white lights. “Show us how happy it makes you to write a poem.”
    I stared through the frieze of rubber-plant leaves in Jay Cee’s window to the blue sky beyond. A few stagey cloud puffs were traveling from right to left. I fixed my eyes on the largest cloud, as if, when it passed out of sight, I might have the good luck to pass with it.
    I felt it was very important to keep the line of my mouth level.
    “Give us a smile.”
    At last, obediently, like the mouth of a ventriloquist’s dummy, my own mouth started to quirk up.
    “Hey,” the photographer protested, with sudden foreboding, “you look like you’re going to cry.”
    I couldn’t stop.
    I buried my face in the pink velvet facade of Jay Cee’s loveseat and with immense relief the salt tears and miserable noises that had been prowling around in me all morning burst out into the room.
    When I lifted my head, the photographer had vanished. Jay Cee had vanished as well. I felt limp and betrayed, like the skin shed by a terrible animal. It was a relief to be free of the animal, but it seemed to have taken my spirit with it, and everything else it could lay its paws on.
    I fumbled in my pocketbook for the gilt compact with the mascara and the mascara brush and the eyeshadow and the three lipsticks and the side mirror. The face that peered back at me seemed to be peering from the grating of a prison cell after a prolonged beating. It looked bruised and puffy and all the wrong colors. It was a face that needed soap and water and Christian tolerance.
    I started to paint it with small heart.
    Jay Cee breezed back after a decent interval with an armful of manuscripts.
    “These’ll amuse you,” she said. “Have a good read.”
    Every morning a snowy avalanche of manuscripts swelled the dust-gray piles in the office of the Fiction Editor. Secretly, in studies and attics and schoolrooms all over America, people must be writing.

    - from The Death and Life of Sylvia Plath by Ronald Hayman; pp. 1-2 (ONE—The End of a Short Life): At about eight o’clock in the evening on Sunday, 27 January 1963, Sylvia Plath went downstairs to ring the doorbell of the ground floor flat. For six weeks she’d been living alone with two young children in a maisonette at 23 Fitzroy Road, in north-west London. Her downstairs neighbour was a Welsh art historian, Trevor Thomas, who was working as fine art editor for the Gordon Fraser Gallery. He was fifty-six . . . . She stood there with bloodshot eyes, tears running down her face: ‘I’m going to die . . . and who will take care of my children?’ He invited her in and gave her sherry.
    At first he’d disliked her. Somehow she’d talked the estate agents into giving her the upstairs maisonette they’d promised to reserve for him. Deserted by his wife, he was bringing up their two sons, who were at a boarding-school, but in the holidays he needed more space than he had in the ground-floor flat he’d taken instead of the maisonette. Besides, this American woman was a bad neighbour. Ignoring his protests, she regularly left a big pram in the hallway and went on overloading his dustbin instead of buying one for herself. At first he’d never invited her into his flat, but in the last couple of weeks he’d begun to like her better.
    He tried to reassure her. She wasn’t going to die, he told her, and even if she did, her husband would look after the children. She didn’t want to die, she said. She had so much to do. But she couldn’t go on. Then she became angry, clenching her fists and punching them up and down. It was all that awful woman’s fault, she said. They’d been so happy, until she stole him. She was evil, a scarlet woman, a Jezebel. They were in Spain, she said, spending money she’d helped to earn. How she hated them!
    But then, with one of her abrupt mood changes, Sylvia asked whether Thomas had the Sunday papers. When he produced the Observer, she opened it at the book page and showed him a poem by Ted Hughes. He was her husband, she explained, and then pointed to a long and favourable review by Anthony Burgess of a new novel, The Bell Jar by Victoria Lucas. She’d written the novel, but her real name was Sylvia Plath. The name meant nothing to Thomas, who knew her as Sylvia Hughes.
    Abruptly she was angry again, furiously bouncing up and down in the chair. He’d be down there with friends, receiving congratulations on his poem, the centre of admiration, free to come and go as he pleased. But here was she, a prisoner in this house, chained to the children. She wanted to be down there too, to know what they were saying about her book and her reviews. It wasn’t clear what she meant by ‘down there’ – and she seemed to have forgotten that she had said they were in Spain. She started to cry again, with her arms locked together, rocking to and fro with grief she couldn’t suppress. Thomas gave her a handkerchief.
    She kept saying how happy she’d been with Ted until she came. The other woman was always she, as if it would be degrading to mention her name, but Sylvia went on talking about her, furiously. She spoke about him too, more ambivalently, the fury mixed with possessive love, and as she went on talking, Thomas wondered whether she was angling for an offer to babysit so that she could go ‘down there’ and join in the celebration, if there really was one in progress. Anyway, she was in no state to go out. She went on talking, saying she had to write poems to pay the electricity bills and to buy food and clothes for the children, but what she really wanted was to be a famous novelist and make a lot of money. The poems were just a means to an end.

    - p. 3: At the end of September 1962, when Ted Hughes moved out of their Devon house, she’d been left with Frieda, who was two and a half, and Nick, a baby of less than nine months. In the second week of December she’d brought the two children to London and settled them into the maisonette, where they had to survive a ferociously cold winter, with burst pipes, with flu and head-colds. Heaped-up snow stayed frozen on the pavement for six weeks.
    She was close to a doctor she liked, John Horder, who’d looked after her in 1960, during her first pregnancy, when she and Hughes were living in Chalcot Square, only a hundred yards away from the new flat. Dr Horder’s surgery was—and still is—in Regent’s Park Road, and when she went back to him in January 1963 he could see she was severely depressed, but she struck him as being almost too lethargic to be suicidal, though she had, as he knew, made a serious suicide attempt ten years earlier. To put her on a course of anti-depressants was to put her temporarily in greater danger by giving her more energy, and, wanting to arrange treatment for her, he wrote to a psychiatrist, but his letter failed to arrive. An additional risk was that in combination with certain foods, the drugs could raise blood pressure, and it was important she should use them as prescribed. To monitor their effects, he told her to keep in close touch, reporting at regular intervals on how she was feeling, either by coming to the surgery or by calling him. To do this she had either to use a telephone booth or ring from a friend’s home: she was still waiting for a telephone to be installed in her flat.

    - pp. 4-5: After six strenuous weeks of looking after the children single-handed, Sylvia had found the German girl who’d started working for her less than two weeks earlier, but Sylvia, who described her as ‘food-fussy and boy-gaga’, had quickly fallen out with her.
    Over the weekend Sylvia saw less of Gerry, who had flu, than of Jillian, who says Sylvia alternated between talking coherently and ‘raving’. She didn’t want to be alone, and wanted to talk, speaking intensely and almost incessantly, but unrealistically, repeating herself, contradicting herself and jumping abruptly from one topic to another. At first Jillian tried to make occasional interpolations in the monologues, but it became apparent that Sylvia wasn’t taking anything in, except when they were making practical arrangements. After Jillian offered to fetch anything she needed from Fitzroy Road, Sylvia made a list of things she wanted.
    In the maisonette, on the door of the study Jillian saw a joke card: DO NOT DISTURB. GENIUS AT WORK. The room was extremely tidy, but most things were locked away. The books Sylvia had been reading were Jennifer Dawson’s novel The Ha-ha, which involves mental breakdown, and Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving. In her bedroom there was a padlocked box by the bed. She’d asked Jillian to bring curlers, make-up and a new cocktail outfit with a glittering blue top. Together with bottles and nappies for Nick, Jillian packed these things into a suitcase. Though Sylvia had said nothing about bringing a change of clothes for the children, Jillian searched in their room, but the drawers were empty. She remembered that the last five or six times she’d seen the children, Frieda had always been wearing the same clothes.
    Over the four days in Islington Sylvia seems to have moved through a variety of moods. At times she was animated and lucid, at other times depressed and confused. Jillian Becker uses the word ‘raving’ for some of Sylvia’s conversation, and this tallies with the evidence of the critic A. Alvarez, who uses the term ‘borderline psychotic’ to describe the state she’d been in on Christmas Eve. Gerry, who remembers most of her daytime conversation as being quite lucid, recalls that she took several phone calls – she’d given the number to friends and to people involved with her writing and broadcasting – but throughout the four days she struck him as being almost unaware of the children’s needs. It was mostly Phyllis, the Beckers’ simple-minded, cross-eyed Irish maid, who looked after them. Afterwards it seemed to Gerry that Phyllis ‘had sensed how Sylvia was already part-buried. The attention she gave our small daughter and Sylvia’s children was beyond compare. She spent all her time with them as if to ward off the unseen, the unknown.’ [‘Plath – Hughes: One of Us Had to Die’, unpublished memoir by Gerry Becker]
    On Thursday evening Jillian bathed Frieda and Nick, lent Frieda pyjamas, fed her and took Nick to Sylvia, who gave him his bottle. At dinner Sylvia ate with a hearty appetite, but afterwards said she wanted to lie down and take her pills. She had several different kinds—medication, sedatives and stimulants—and, like a child, she asked Jillian to stay with her till she fell asleep. Jillian didn’t dole out the pills, but gave her water or tea when she was swallowing them, and tried to persuade her not to take so many. When the sleeping pills seemed to be having no effect, Sylvia wanted four more, and they compromised on one more. This sent her to sleep, and Jillian went to bed, only to be woken at about three by desperate calls from Sylvia. Nick was awake too, and when Jillian took him to her, Sylvia cuddled him. Then Frieda woke up. When both children were back in bed, Jillian stayed with Sylvia, who talked as she had to Trevor Thomas about how happy they’d been till Ted had betrayed her. The Hughes family hated her, she said, especially Ted’s sister, Olwyn. Sylvia also talked about her mother as if she were a monster. At four-thirty she wanted her anti-depressants, because they took two hours to have any effect.

    - p. 6: On Friday afternoon, when she went to see Dr Horder, he wanted to put her in hospital over the weekend, knowing that a strong suicidal impulse was at work, and that the anti-depressants might fortify her resolution. But there was no space in either of the first two hospitals he telephoned, and he decided the third was unsuitable. He regarded her as one of the sensitive people who don’t always do well in hospital, and, though he hadn’t read The Bell Jar, it was obvious that after her experiences of electric shock therapy, she was scared of hospitals. Her depression was clearly pathological, but in hospital she’d have been separated from the children, whose presence might work on her as an incentive to stay alive. There was no guarantee, in any case, that she’d be unable to kill herself in a hospital. In the limited time at his disposal, and without having read the death-oriented poems she’d been writing, he had to make a decision on the basis of talking to her when, as he knew, both her nervous and endocrine systems were affected by the pills.

    - p. 8: After going to sleep in Islington, she woke, as before, at about three and called for Jillian. On Saturday morning the German au pair rang Trevor Thomas’s bell, wanting to know whether a letter had arrived for her. Madam had been awful on her last day there, she said, shouting and screaming at her to go. When the girl asked for her money, Sylvia refused, pushing her, hitting her and telling her to get out.
    In the house at Islington, Sylvia spent most of the day with Jillian, talking in the same circular and unanswerable way. In spite of Gerry’s flu, the Beckers were both going out in the evening, but, not wanting to leave Sylvia alone with Phyllis. they arranged for an ex-student of Gerry’s to come in. Sylvia sat on the chaise longue in the study, and he played records for her. It wasn’t yet ten o’clock when the Beckers came home. Taking her pills, Sylvia seemed both febrile and hypnotised. She talked incessantly and excitedly, but ignored questions. [Conversation with Jillian Becker, 18.10.90]

    - pp. 10-12: The last man to see her alive was Trevor Thomas. Shortly before midnight, his doorbell rang. She was looking odd, as if drugged or doped. Her voice struck him as being in slow motion, the vowels drawn out and somehow slurred, making her sound more American than usual. She asked whether he could give her some stamps – she didn’t have quite enough and she had letters to post. He told her there would be no collection till the morning. No, she said, they were airmail for America, and she had to get them into the post tonight. It seemed useless to argue, but he asked why she’d come back instead of spending the whole weekend with her friends. She said the children had been difficult and she wanted to write. He said nothing about the visit from the au pair. When he gave her the stamps, she took out a small purse. He didn’t want to accept any money, but she insisted on paying him. Otherwise, she said she wouldn’t be right with her conscience before God, would she? When he said she could leave it till the morning, she asked what time he went to work. He told her he normally left the flat between a quarter and half past eight.
    After shutting the front door of his flat, he could still see light showing underneath it. He let about ten minutes go by before opening the door again. She was still standing there, head raised, and the expression on her face was seraphic. ‘You aren’t really well, are you?’ he said. ‘I’m sure I should get the doctor.’ But she asked him not to. She was having a marvellous dream, she said, a most wonderful vision. He invited her to come in, but she wouldn’t, and when he urged her to go back upstairs, out of the cold, she just smiled. It was now about half past twelve. He’d have to go to bed, he said, or he wouldn’t be able to get up in time. The light stayed on, and after about twenty minutes, he opened the door again, but she wasn’t there. He went to bed, but couldn’t sleep. Although he’d taken off his hearing aid, he could still hear her pacing about on the uncarpeted floor above his head.
    She had in her possession enough sleeping tablets to kill her, but she chose to die by gassing herself. Her diary describes how at the beginning of the fifties she chose gas instead of novocaine when she had wisdom teeth extracted. In the dentist’s chair she enjoyed feeling the tubes pressing into her cheek, and she tried not to fight the gas, which tasted sickeningly sweet. When the dentist put something into her mouth, the gas seemed to be coming in big gulps. She’d been staring into the light, which seemed to smash into tiny fragments, all swinging rhythmically. Something had taken possession of her lungs, emitting breathy wheezes. As she felt her mouth cracking into a smile, she wanted to describe in writing what it was like to go under. No-one had told her how simple it was.
    On the night of her suicide she wanted to protect the children from the gas. She opened the window of their bedroom, leaving bread and cups of milk by both high-sided cots, though Nick was barely thirteen months old—too young to feed himself. She stuffed towels and cloths under the doors of both bedroom and kitchen, as well as sticking adhesive tape around the edges of the doors. All this was done painstakingly. This was clearly a suicide attempt that wasn’t designed to fail. She pinned a note to the pram, which was in the room next door to the kitchen, saying ‘Please call Dr Horder’, and giving his number. If she wrote a suicide note, its contents haven’t been divulged. She knew the nurse was due to arrive in the morning but most of the evidence suggests that she didn’t want to be saved, and she’s unlikely to have miscalculated the amount of time the gas would take to kill her. She folded a cloth to rest her head, turned on all the gas taps, and put her head deep inside the oven.
    When the nurse, Myra Norris, arrived on Monday morning, she heard children crying inside the house, but couldn’t get in, though she rang both bells. There was a queue outside the nearest public telephone box, and her agency, when she finally made contact, confirmed that 23 Fitzroy Road was the right address. When she went back to the house, she found a builder working there. When they forced the front door of the maisonette, the smell of gas was unmistakable. They rushed into the kitchen, opened the windows, turned the gas off and dragged Sylvia into the living room, where Myra Norris tried artificial respiration. The children were still crying and were very cold but unharmed. The builder, Charles Langridge, went out to a call box, where he not only rang the police and Dr Horder but also called an ambulance. The doctor arrived at about half past eleven.* The body was already cold and his examination of it led him to believe she’d died between four and six in the morning. The ambulance, which arrive five minutes later, took the body to University College Hospital in Gower Street, where the doctor who examined it, Dr Hill, said Sylvia had been dead for about four hours. The ambulance had arrived at the flat, according to the policeman, at eleven thirty-five, which means Dr Hill couldn’t have seen the body before midday and that if he was right, she hadn’t died till about eight o’clock.

    * Statement by Constable 567D/145526 John Jones 14.2.63

    Catherine Frankfort, the neighbour who came to babysit, found only the policeman, the doctor and the children. She sat weeping in Dr Horder’s car, while he tried to console her by saying that if it hadn’t happened now, it would have happened later . . . . The children on the top floor had been in no danger because coal gas, being heavier than air, sinks . . . .
    The autopsy report bizarrely states that Sylvia died on 11.2.63 and that her body was examined on 10.2.63. It was the body of an adequately nourished young woman with recent bruises on the right forehead and the right occipital region of the scalp. The hypostatic bloodstains on the flanks were bright pink in colour, as was all her blood. There were about six subpleural haemorrhages on the lower lobes of both lungs. [Report by pathologist at University College Hospital]

    - p. 13: The four mourners drove to the house, where they sat with Hughes’s parents. The impression Gerry formed was that they all resented and disliked Sylvia: their boy had been harmed by an American woman, a foreigner. In Ted Hughes himself the predominant emotion seemed to be anger . . . .
    After a brief ceremony, earth was shovelled on top of the coffin. Everyone filed away except Ted, who for at least five minutes stayed alone, hunched at the edge of the grave. Afterwards, catching up with Jillian, he said: ‘Something of me has died with her.’

    - pp. 13-16: Hoping to break through the silence, Gerry went downstairs to the Co-op shop to buy two bottles of whisky. There were no glasses, but, pouring away the dregs of tea in the cups, he offered whisky. Several of the women refused, but Ted Hughes accepted some, though nothing could have cheered him up. ‘Everybody hated her,’ he said. Later on he said: ‘It was a fight to the death. One of us had to die.’ But when he spoke about his last meeting with her, he said he’d told her that in six months time they’d be living together again in Devon.
    The gravestone he chose was a slab of grey marble inscribed with the words:

    Even among fierce flames
    The golden lotus can be planted

    This is a translation from Sanskrit, he explains, and he used to quote it to her when she was depressed. [Ted Hughes in the Guardian, 20.4.89]
    One of the mysteries which still surrounds her death is what happened to the Morris estate car, which she never used again after the Friday night outing. According to a neighbour, it had reappeared in the street during Sunday evening, but had disappeared again by the morning. If we knew what happened to it on the Friday night, it might be possible to establish whether the man she was planning to meet then was the man who turned up at the inquest, and whether it was Hughes she was expecting to see on Sunday night.
    On the question of whether divorce proceedings were under way, contradictory statements have been made. Sylvia told Trevor Thomas that she’d reluctantly signed divorce papers the previous week, and a letter to her mother (9 October 1962) said she was getting a divorce. Could her brother Warren or her Aunt Dot fly over to be with her for a few days when she had to face the court? She’d need help, she says. The hearing would probably be in the spring. But Ted and Olwyn Hughes have protested that no divorce proceedings had been started. He wrote in a letter to the Guardian (20 April 1989): ‘Whatever she may have said to the advisers who were urging her on, she never touched divorce papers and had no plan to do so. I am able to say that because she and I discussed our future quite freely up to the end.’ He was unaware, he goes on, of any divorce proceedings.
    Meeting Jillian Becker, Hughes asked whether Sylvia had left a coat at their house, and, when it was found on the coat-rack, his first question was: ‘Are her keys in the pocket?’ They were – both car keys and house keys. But Gerry remembered seeing her take a set of keys out of her handbag to let herself into the house. ‘Were they found later?’ Ted Hughes asked. Why did she have two sets, and why were keys uppermost in his mind?
    It was ironical that she killed herself without making a will. She cared deeply about the children and her work; the result of dying intestate was to give Hughes total control over Frieda, Nick and everything she’d written.
    Another question to which contradictory answers are being given is whether she was short of money at the end of her life. Though she had considerable pride, she was putting on a show of being destitute. She even kept a charity collecting box on the mantelpiece, and twice accepted money from Phyllis, although, after the first time, Sylvia said it made her feel she gave off the smell of poverty. This Irish maid saw her as an abandoned woman. According to Olwyn, she had . . . 1500 [pounds] in the bank when she died, and Sylvia was buying new clothes for herself, but when Jillian Becker questioned her about the children’s clothes, she said she had nothing. ‘Can I have anything from your children?’
    Another unsolved mystery is about the letters to America. Anne Stevenson’s account of Sylvia’s visit to Thomas suggests that the stamp-buying was merely a pretext for calling at his flat. ‘Her real purpose seems to have been to ensure that he would be up before nine the next morning, in time to let in the nurse she expected.’ In fact, as he told Sylvia, he always left the house between 8.15 and 8.30. She possibly knew the builder would be working there, and may have been counting either on him or on Catherine Frankfort to break in and take charge of the children. It’s clear that when she spoke to Thomas, she was deeply concerned about the letters, and apparently one of them was to her mother, but although she obtained stamps, she didn’t post the letters. Questioned on 12 October 1990, her mother said that this last letter never reached her, but that she was aware of its existence. When she first heard the news of Sylvia’s death, nothing was said about suicide, and Aurelia Plath’s first impression was that her daughter had died of pneumonia. Later, told about the letter, she was given to understand that it would be better if she didn’t see it, and she didn’t try to insist.
    One of her reasons for not wanting to antagonise Hughes was that she was hoping he might agree to let the children be brought up in America. But even if she hadn’t set so much store by everything Sylvia wrote, it would still seem odd that Mrs Plath should surrender her right to read a letter her daughter wrote to her within hours of killing herself.

    - p. 17 (TWO—My Colossal Father):

    She seemed convinced, in these last poems, that the root of her suffering was the death of her father, whom she loved, who abandoned her, and who dragged her after him into death.
    --A. Alvarez

    Sylvia Plath was eight when her father died, but the seeds of her neurosis had already been planted. He was the dominant force in the family, and she loved his praise. Her mother remembers the time when she was starting piano lessons: ‘She would play for him. He would pat her on the head and praise her.’
    Though her father wasn’t particularly fond of young children, Sylvia didn’t get the feeling that she was being deprived of his intensely desirable love until illness overtook him, increasing his irritability. Assuming she must somehow be at fault if he was less interested in her, she exerted herself more in the activities which seemed to please him—making up little rhymes, dancing, drawing, playing the piano for him. Without being entirely unresponsive, he soon gave signs that his patience was exhausted, and her longing to stay in his godlike presence was mostly frustrated. Well-meaningly, her mother was trying to protect him by restricting the children to quiet games when he was within earshot, and to protect them by keeping them as far away as she could from explosions of rage and gasps of pain when he had cramping spasms in his leg muscles.
    For Sylvia, his death wasn’t so much a shock as the irreversible conclusion to a series of rejections. She and her younger brother, Warren, were free to make more noise, but all her chances of winning back Daddy’s love had vanished. Either she was at fault for not trying hard enough, or her mother was for allowing her only such brief opportunities.

    - pp. 18-19: Otto Plath had been a university teacher. Though he’d lacked warmth and had often shown impatience with the two children, Sylvia had felt close to him and proud of being his favourite. She still thought of him as present inside her, ‘interwoven in the cellular system of your long body’.* When she was six or seven, he used to lie on the couch in the living-room after supper while she improvised dances for him. Later, as an adolescent, she told herself that the intensity of her longing for male company derived from the absence of an older man in the household, and as a married woman she had an exceptionally strong aversion to being deprived of her husband’s company for more than a short stretch of time. Nor could she ever know how different her emotional needs would have been if her father had lived longer. He’d been a lecturer in entomology at Boston University, and at school, following her mother’s orientation towards the humanities, she regretted her ignorance of botany and zoology.

    * The Journals of Sylvia Plath, p 25

    Made of mottled pink marble, the father’s headstone is described in The Bell Jar as looking like tinned salmon. As soon as Esther has arranged the azaleas, she collapses and weeps violently, sitting on the wet grass. Never before has she shed tears for her father’s death. Nor has Mrs Greenwood: trying to look on the bright side, she’d said what a good thing it was he’d died instead of living on as a cripple. In the novel it can be stated categorically that Esther’s mother had never wept over the bereavement; in reality all Sylvia knew was that she’d never seen Aurelia weeping about it.
    Sometimes, when contemplating suicide, as she often did, Sylvia felt as if her father was trying to drag her down into the grave; he had, though he didn’t quite kill himself, set a suicidal example. He was fifty in 1936 when he developed a form of diabetes which wouldn’t have been fatal if he hadn’t reacted obstinately and irrationally to the symptoms, refusing to consult a doctor. His health went on deteriorating. He lost weight, suffering from sinusitis and a persistent cough. His irritability increased and his stamina diminished; he needed to spend more and more time lying down. He gave up none of his university work, even during the long vacation, when he taught a summer school, but the effort exhausted him, and he worked horizontally, moving from the couch in the living room to the couch in his study as he prepared lectures and corrected written work.
    One of his friends, dying of lung cancer, had undergone several unsuccessful operations, and Otto Plath, assuming he too was cancerous, fought shy of medical advice, ignoring all Aurelia’s persistent attempts to persuade him, as well as those of her parents and university colleagues. He was adamant. He’d diagnosed his own condition, he said, and he’d never submit to surgery. He merely grew angry when she begged him to let a doctor examine him. In desperation she asked the family doctor to drop in on the pretext of paying a casual visit, but she was told this would be unethical.
    A man with strong willpower and liable to violent outbursts of temper, Otto Plath detested stock responses, received ideas, and everything that went by the name of common sense. In the classroom, to demonstrate that human behaviour was programmed by prejudices passed on from one generation to the next, he used to skin a rat, cook it and eat it in front of his students.

    - pp. 23-26: In mid-August 1940 [Otto Plath] was getting ready to leave the house for summer school when he stubbed his little toe against the base of the bureau. In the evening, when he came home, Aurelia asked him to show her his foot. His toes were black, and red streaks were running up his ankle. She called the doctor, who, after taking blood and urine samples, diagnosed diabetes mellitus in a very advanced state. When he developed pneumonia, [Otto] Plath went into hospital for two weeks, and a full-time nurse had to be employed when he was discharged. ‘How could such a brilliant man be so stupid?’ asked the surgeon, who confirmed that the gangrenous leg would have to be amputated from the thigh. The operation was performed on 12 October at the New England Deaconess Hospital. When the children were told, Sylvia asked: ‘When he buys shoes, will he have to buy a pair, Mummy?’
    On 5 November 1940 Otto Plath died in his sleep. His eight-year-old daughter had been praying every night for his recovery, and when the news was broken, her reaction was to bury herself under the bedclothes, saying: ‘I’ll never speak to God again.’
    Going to see the body at the funeral parlour, Aurelia felt ‘he bore no resemblance to the husband I knew, but looked like a fashionable store mannequin’. She decided against taking the children to the funeral, and managed not to let them see her in tears: she remembered how frightening it had been to see her own mother weeping, and it didn’t occur to her that they might later accuse her of not having felt the proper grief. In The Bell Jar all Esther remembers is that her mother smiled and said how merciful it had been that he hadn’t had to live as a cripple, an invalid for life. ‘I laid my face to the smooth face of the marble and howled my loss into the cold salt rain.’ It doesn’t occur to her that the loss wasn’t just hers, or that her mother might have cried when she was asleep.

    Otto Plath became more important as a figure in Sylvia’s fantasy than he’d ever been in her life, though her imaginary relationship with him had already started in fantasies and dreams about him. Within eleven days of visiting his grave, she’d started to think about her own death as the unavoidable sequel to his, which she regarded as suicidal. In the poem ‘Electra on Azalea Path’, which she wrote in March 1959, she calls herself ‘the ghost of an infamous suicide’. A less obstinate man would have side-stepped the gangrene that ‘ate you to the bone’. She pictures a blue razor rusting in her throat, and she apologises for knocking at his door to ask forgiveness. It was her love, she says, that did both of them to death.
    On the day he died, she says, she went into the dirt like a bee going into hibernation. She’s been almost asleep ever since, to be awakened only by her visit to his bones in the ‘cramped necropolis’. She’s reminded of Sophocles’s Electra by the blood-like red dripping from the petals of the artificial evergreen on the neighbouring headstone. To shut out the idea of his part in her conception, she pictures herself as ‘God-fathered’—conceived immaculately, with only a stain of divinity left on her mother’s sheets. But within a few weeks she’d come to feel embarrassed by the poem, which she dismissed as ‘forced and rhetorical’.
    She approaches the subject differently in ‘The Beekeeper’s Daughter’, which was written soon afterwards. Her father had taken great pride in the magical-seeming power he had over bees. They never stung him when he caught them. If Sylvia made her memories of him into a myth, it was he who almost deliberately started the mythicising process. Once he caught a bee in his fist and held it in her ear; in one of the lines she cut from her 1957 poem ‘All the Dead Dears’ he was ‘a man who used to clench bees in his fist and out-rant the thundercrack’. This links the Bee-King with King Lear.
    Sylvia spent a lot of time with her father’s book, Bumblebees and Their Ways, which is the basic source both of the interest in bee-keeping she developed in 1962 and of the bee imagery recurrent in many of her poems. But the 1962 series of bee-keeping poems is anticipated by ‘The Beekeeper’s Daughter’, which she wrote soon after ‘Electra on Azalea Path’. After drawing on his book for some of the detail in the last stanza, she addresses him as ‘Father, bridegroom’, and she symbolically weds him when she ends the poem with a reference to the queen bee who marries ‘the winter of your year’. The idea of wedding the dead father is inseparable from the idea of dying to be united with him. She sometimes thought of the dead as attaching themselves like barnacles to the living, or of ‘hag hands hauling me down’. At the end of ‘Lorelei’ the speaker tells the sirens to ‘ferry’ her down to the depths.
    Though Sylvia took pleasure when she wrote ‘Electra on Azalea Path’ in identifying with a girl whose father had been killed by her mother, she wasn’t yet conscious of the extent to which she was blaming Aurelia for Otto Plath’s death. By marrying a man so much older than herself, she’d given her children an old father, and then one morning she came in with tears ‘in her eyes and told me he was gone for good. I hate her for that.’ It was her fault that Sylvia had to live without ‘the only man who’d love me steady through life’. This made her hate men who couldn’t be relied on to go on loving her steadily. She revenged herself by pricking holes in them, showing them they wouldn’t be any good as fathers, encouraging them to propose marriage, and then puncturing their hopes. [The Journals of Sylvia Plath, pp. 266, 267]
    At the same time as blaming Aurelia for the unnecessary death, Sylvia blamed herself – ‘It was my love that did us both to death’ – and she assumed her mother was blaming her. Aurelia talked about a dream of hers in which Sylvia was wearing a gaudy dress and was going to become a chorus girl – perhaps a prostitute. Otto Plath, alive again, slammed out of the house in rage. Desperate, Aurelia ran along the beach, her feet sinking into the sand, her purse open, coins falling into the sand, becoming sand. To spite her, he’d driven off a bridge. He was floating face downwards in the ocean water by the pillars of a country club, while neighbours watched disapprovingly from the pier.
    It’s hard to explain why a girl who thought so often about her dead father never visited his grave until she was twenty-six – six years after her first suicide attempt – but it’s easy to explain what prompted that visit in the spring of 1959. At the end of December 1958 she read Freud’s Mourning and Melancholia, which explains melancholia as developing out of a failure or inability to mourn adequately for a serious loss. At eight she’d been incapable of mourning, and her melancholia was more deep-seated and dangerous than it would have been had the tension been relieved sooner. In Freud’s account of it, melancholia consists of profoundly painful dejection, withdrawal of interest from the outside world, loss of capacity to love, inhibition of all activity, a lowering of self-regard, sometimes so extreme that it leads to self-vilification and a delusional expectation of punishment. These symptoms, or variants on them, affected Sylvia over much of her life, and Freud’s formulations struck her as an almost exact transcription of her feelings during the depression that had led to the suicide attempt.

    - pp. 27-29: Of all her attempts to lay the ghost of her father, the most desperate and most notorious is her poem ‘Daddy’. Introducing it when she read it on the BBC’s Third Programme, she said the speaker was a girl whose father had died when she thought he was God. This girl had an Electra complex, and her case was complicated by the fact that the man was a Nazi, while his wife might be partly Jewish. The two strains merge in the daughter, who cannot free herself from the ‘awful little allegory’ except by acting it out – once. This camouflages the autobiographical drive behind the poem.
    Of course, it’s partly a fiction, while the speaker is partly a character, but, as in so many of Sylvia Plath’s poems, the tone is so abrasively confessional that we can’t be entirely deceived—and perhaps we aren’t intended to be—by the pretence of holding it at arm’s length as an ‘awful little allegory’. The girl with the Nazi father is a persona, but the mask is designed to become transparent. The statements are too direct, the emotion too raw, the experience too personal. Writing fifteen days before her thirtieth birthday, Sylvia is trying not only to sum up the relationship that hadn’t ended with her father’s death but to get it under control. There’s as much optimism as defiance in the final line ‘Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.’ Meaning both that she’d finally worked her way through the problems and that the relationship is over.
    The poem opens with a complaint about being imprisoned. For thirty years she has lived inside him like a white foot in a black shoe so tight she scarcely dared to breathe. The rhythm slows down for two contradictory assertions: that she had to kill him and that he died before she had time to kill him. The idea of acting out is a Freudian idea Sylvia may have picked up from her psychiatrist, Ruth Beuscher. Motivated by unconscious drives and fantasies, acting out departs from the normal pattern of behaviour – the action is usually more aggressive. Accumulated resentments about a father, for instance, might be acted out in a relationship with a husband. In analysis, the situation encourages the patient to ‘transfer’ the accumulated mixture of positive and negative feeling, and Sylvia, when no longer having sessions with Dr Beuscher, tended to carry on the therapy, solo, in her writing. At the same time, inevitably, she must have transferred positive and negative feelings to Ted Hughes in such a way that the relationship with him continued the relationship with her dead father. But there was an element of acting out in all the efforts she made throughout her life to excel. At school, at summer camp, as a diarist, at college, as a professional writer, she was compulsive and almost heroic in the efforts she made to do well. Her energy was tremendous and she channelled it relentlessly into her drive for success.
    Freud rejected the term ‘Electra complex’. It was introduced by Jung, who believed women could be as violent as Oedipal men in their possessive love for the parent of the opposite sex and in their jealous hatred for the parent of the same sex. In ‘Daddy’ the love and hatred are both focused on the father. The hatred is more apparent – the insistent rhythm makes the poem into a dance of rage – but the rage comes out of frustrated love.
    The suggestion of superhuman size – residue from the dream and the earlier poem – emerges in the idea that his toe, as big as a seal, is in San Francisco while his head is in the Atlantic, and, with a fond affectation of contempt, she compares him with the devil by saying he has a cleft in his chin instead of his foot. Though of German origin, Otto Plath had no connection with the Nazis, but he did often stand at a blackboard – this is what he’s doing in one of the photographs Sylvia would often have seen – and did teach German. The daughter in the poem, possibly partly Jewish, is carried off to Dachau by the obscene German language.
    The outsize father blurs into the husband. Brought back to life after the suicide attempt, says the speaker, she was pulled out of the sack, stuck together with glue, and she knew what she had to do. (This ‘oo’ sound thuds repetitively through the poem.) She made a model of him, a man who loved torturing. Like a vampire, he has drunk her blood for seven years. It was almost seven years since she’d met Ted Hughes, and the words ‘I do, I do’ obviously refer to the marriage ceremony, while the conclusive ‘I’m through’ may be aimed partly at him. She’s through with both relationships.

    - p. 30 (THREE—Dearest of Mothers): In February 1953, six months before she tried to kill herself, Sylvia wrote to tell Aurelia what a ‘superlative’ mother she’d been, but the suicide attempt was a ferocious act of aggression against her. Both then and in February 1963, when she succeeded in killing herself, Sylvia was following an example both parents had set. Her father was killed by fanatical faith in his own diagnosis of his disease; her mother was fanatical in denying herself pleasure, sacrificially surrendering her rights, first to her husband and then to her children when she refused to spend money on herself in order to spend it on them. Talking about her to friends, Sylvia called her a martyr. The pattern had started in Aurelia’s relationship with her father, who wanted her to have a sound secretarial and commercial training. Her own inclinations were literary, but she sacrificed literature to shorthand.
    She grew up during the First World War in Winthrop, near Boston, where, thanks to her Germanic surname, Schober, she was victimised by schoolchildren who called her ‘Spy-face’. Frustrated when she tried to make friends, she became fiercely competitive in the classroom.

    - pp. 32-33: Compulsively eager to please by excelling, Aurelia put herself under almost intolerable strain throughout most of her life. Always in the subordinate position, first as Otto Plath’s favourite student, and then as the submissive wife who doubled as his assistant, she was conscientious, self-disciplined, self-effacing and apparently selfless. After his death she was unexpectedly in the dominant position inside the family, but she was unaccustomed to dominating, and if she’d ever had a talent for taking initiatives, she’d lost it. On the day her father died, Sylvia came home from school with bloodshot eyes and held out a slip of paper. ‘I PROMISE NEVER TO MARRY AGAIN. Signed . . .’ Though she was attractive and only thirty-three, Aurelia signed without hesitation. About ten years later Sylvia asked: ‘That document never kept you from marrying again, did it?’ Aurelia assured her it hadn’t; but if it wasn’t the document that stopped her, it was devotion to her duties as a mother, and above all as a breadwinner.
    From the moment of bereavement she found her freedom was financially constrained. The university paid no pension, and Otto Plath had insured his life for only five thousand dollars—barely enough to pay for the medical attention and the funeral. Permanently worried about bills, Aurelia overloaded herself with work first as a junior high-school teacher and then as a college administrator. Spending her earnings almost entirely on household and children, she believed herself to be motivated by unselfish love, with no vicarious ambition in it, and no guilt feelings underneath it. But in putting herself under strain, she was putting the children under strain, just as she would have done if she’d sat down to a meal at which they were given caviar while she had only bread and water. She wanted to give them pleasures she’d never had and never would have, but how could they be happy when she wasn’t?
    Dutifully determined to earn enough for them both to have an expensive education, she also bought them new clothes and new shoes. She paid for their music lessons, their scouts uniforms and their summer camps, while for herself she bought only second-hand clothes. How could they be proud of the figure she cut? She wanted to show there were no limits to her love for them, and that she deserved unbounded love in return, but she never relaxed. ‘From the moment Sylvia was conceived,’ Aurelia wrote in a 1976 letter, ‘I rejoiced and loved her and served her all her life with all I had in me and with all I could give her emotionally and materially.’ The word ‘served’ is revealing, for subservience in a parent is at best a mixed blessing.
    In Aurelia’s iron determination to build the best possible future for her fatherless children, generosity mingled with a masochism that had been exacerbated by guilt when she married a father figure. She punished herself during his lifetime by overworking for him, and after his death by overworking for the children. During the last four years of his illness she developed a duodenal ulcer which haemorrhaged several times. After he died it remained quiescent for about twelve years but asserted itself again after Sylvia’s suicide attempt. The anxiety precipitated more internal haemorrhaging, and in 1954 Aurelia was advised to have a gastrectomy, but even after three-quarters of her stomach was removed, she kept her daughter in ignorance of what had happened.

    - pp. 34-35: Both Sylvia’s eagerness to please and her tendency to overwork derived from Aurelia. For at least two years before Otto Plath’s death, and at least ten years afterwards, the relationship between mother and daughter was uncommonly—and perhaps unhealthily—close. If Warren seemed to resemble their father, Sylvia knew she took after their mother. She felt frightened when she heard the echo of her own voice after she stopped talking: she sounded so much like Aurelia. Unable to be wholly herself, the daughter continued the mother. Like her voice, Sylvia’s face mirrored Aurelia’s expressions. [The Journals of Sylvia Plath p 26]
    While it was impossible not to follow the example Aurelia set, Sylvia knew she was incapable of selflessness; she had none of this ‘plodding, practical love’. Comparing herself with her virtuous mother, she felt spoilt and self-indulgent – in love only with herself. Guilty at not feeling more grateful and more loving towards the woman who made so many sacrifices, Sylvia tried to compensate with a non-stop show of lovingness. Appreciation gushed out of her. When she was fifteen she reproached herself for not being perfect. ‘Never, never, never will I reach the perfection I long for.’ She told Aurelia of her intention to bring up her children ‘just as you have us’, and at eighteen, writing home about another Smith student who was almost suicidal, Sylvia declared: ‘If you were her mother, she would be all right.’ [Letters Home p 64] Most of the letters home started ‘Dearest Mummy’, or ‘Dearest-Mother-whom-I-love-better-than-anybody’. When Harper’s accepted three poems on the day before Aurelia’s birthday, Sylvia said she was mentally dedicating this triumph ‘to you, my favourite person in the world’, and a few weeks later, Sylvia told Warren that after twenty years of ‘extracting her life blood and care’ they should start to bring in ‘big dividends of joy’ for their mother. Perhaps they could treat her to a week on Cape Cod at the end of the summer.
    Long after she’d helped Sylvia to take her first faltering steps towards writing, Aurelia went on encouraging and instructing. The principal motivation behind the early poems was the desire to please and impress Aurelia, whose praise was the main reward. When she came home from teaching, she’d often find, hidden under her napkin, a poem illustrated by a drawing. At the same time Sylvia was being encouraged to make herself the central heroic figure in a myth she elaborated around her activities and the image she presented in the many snapshots that were taken. Until she was thirteen, Aurelia always put a diary into her Christmas stocking. Sylvia then asked for undated notebooks: when the big moments came, one page wasn’t enough. The diaries gave her space in which she could talk to herself without being overheard by her mother, but not without paying attention to rules Aurelia had formulated. In front of the 1945 diary is an instruction in Aurelia’s handwriting: no entries are to be made in the diary after 8 p.m. The diary Sylvia kept at high school is like a scrapbook—copiously illustrated with snapshots, mainly of herself in different outfits and poses. At the same time, encouraging her to write stories, Aurelia gave her elementary lessons in the art of winning sympathy for the hero: get him up a tree and then get people throwing stones at him.
    There are two misleadingly simplistic ways in which the relationship between mother and daughter can be summed up. A virtuously unselfish mother has an ungrateful and vindictive daughter who not only commits suicide but leaves behind her poems and fiction which portray the mother in an unfavourable light and go on plaguing her for the rest of her life. Or Sylvia can be portrayed as the helpless victim of a woman who makes impossible demands not only on herself but on everyone involved with her. The truth is that both mother and daughter were victims, but neither was a helpless victim, and it’s easy to understand why Sylvia had so much difficulty in holding a balance between positive and negative emotions toward Aurelia.
    Sylvia once said she’d always felt she could be honest with Aurelia, and wanted nothing more than to ‘make you proud of me so that some day I can begin to repay you for all the treats you’ve given me in my two decades of life’. Three years after the suicide attempt she was still voicing admiration in the same way. A March 1956 letter eulogises Aurelia for creating an exquisite home and ensuring that her son and daughter went to the best colleges in the country. It was thanks to Aurelia’s teaching, her hard work and her encouragement that the family had ‘weathered the blackest of situations, fighting for growth and new life’.

    - pp. 37-39: The predominant tone of her letters home is strikingly different from that of her poems, journals and short stories. It would have been impossible to confide in Aurelia about negative emotions or sexual experiences. She was generous and self-righteous, loving and smug, perceptive and sanctimonious. She was responsive to the beauties of nature and culture, but if Sylvia tended to gush, it was from this role-model that the tendency derived. ‘We had no money,’ Aurelia wrote in an unpublished memoir, ‘save for essentials. Through education we could, however, build a priceless inner life!’ Such homely philosophising had both a negative and a positive effect on Sylvia. It made her cringe, but it also influenced her. In 1956, advising Aurelia on how to help a friend’s depressive son, Sylvia reminded her of something she’d once said: the determination to win high marks at college should never get in the way of what mattered most in life—openness to what is lovely among the rest that isn’t.
    Sylvia sometimes shrugged off the moralistic advice, and at other times copied passages of Aurelia’s letters into her journal. ‘If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter – for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself . . . Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be there.’ Perceptive enough to realise nothing was more urgent than to edge Sylvia into being more gentle with herself, Aurelia was preaching what she’d never practised, advocating a relaxation she’d never achieved.
    During her first year at Smith, Sylvia, according to her friend Marcia Brown, received a letter from Aurelia every day. [Edward Butscher (ed.) Sylvia Plath: The Woman and the Work p 45] In 1962, within four months of killing herself, Sylvia was still ending letters with crosses for kisses and signing herself with her family nickname, ‘Sivvy’. Generally her letters home were designed to express relish for the present and optimism about the future while implying gratitude for the educational opportunities Aurelia had provided. But according to a journal entry Sylvia made during September 1951, her enemies were the people who cared about her the most. ‘First: my mother. Her pitiful wish is that I should “be happy”.’ But Sylvia’s anger is directed partly against herself. She cannot forgive her pitiful efforts to put on a display of happiness and to lash herself forwards into achieving more and more. On holiday she put herself under as much strain as in term time. Making plans for the summer holiday in 1953, she ordered herself to be cheerful and constructive, scheduling her day as tightly as if she were at Harvard. She’d have to ‘learn about shopping and cooking and try to make Mother’s vacation happy and good’. Such a giving mother mustn’t go unrewarded.
    If Sylvia sometimes hit out at Aurelia, it was partly because each of them was too proprietorial towards the other and partly because so much strain was involved in trying to reciprocate Aurelia’s goodness. When the eight-year-old Sylvia demanded what was virtually a pledge of chastity, this was the desperate act of a girl who couldn’t afford to lose both parents, but there must have been a grain of disappointment in the child’s triumph when the grown-up immediately capitulated. The pattern continued into objections raised by the fifteen-year-old Sylvia when Aurelia was offered a well-paid job as Dean of Studies at Northwestern University. Was she so greedy for self-aggrandisement that she wanted to make her children into complete orphans? Once again, Aurelia surrendered, only to be told, later on, by Sylvia, that she hadn’t had the guts to make the break.
    Because of the upbeat tone in the published Letters Home, Sylvia is often portrayed as someone who could never release aggression in dealings with her mother. But when Aurelia talked about being used as a model when she was a student, she was told that standards must have been very different in her day. Sylvia often criticised Aurelia’s appearance, saying her hair wasn’t properly styled or that white blouses did nothing for her or that her suits were too conservative. Aurelia could have pointed out that if her wardrobe consisted almost entirely of second-hand clothes, Sylvia was the main beneficiary of the economies that were being made, but there was no argument that could have compensated for the dowdy image the mother presented to her daughter’s friends or made the two of them more sympathetic to each other’s viewpoint.
    In the suicide attempt of 1953 aggression against Aurelia was combined with Sylvia’s transference to herself of murderous feelings towards her mother. These are revealed most disturbingly in The Bell Jar when Esther and her mother go to bed in the same room. The pin curls on the older woman’s head glitter in the dim light of the streetlamp filtering through the blinds ‘like a row of little bayonets’. Sleeping with her mouth slightly open, she begins to snore. ‘The piggish noise irritated me,’ and Esther tells herself the only way to stop it would be ‘to take the column of skin and sinew from which it rose and twist it to silence between my hands’.
    Aurelia understood that the suicide attempt was aimed partly at her, but, whatever grief she felt, she forced herself to concentrate on such practical problems as how to behave when she visited Sylvia in the clinic where she was recuperating. Advised not to identify too much with her daughter, she prepared herself carefully for each visit, ordering herself to appear calm. This only made Sylvia angry: didn’t she get any more sympathy than this when she was going through hell?
    In the novel the stream of visitors makes Esther feel more depressed. Her mother is the worst – consistently careful not to remonstrate, but silently reproachful, sorrowfully and persistently begging for an explanation of what she has done wrong.

    - pp. 41-42: It had once been Sylvia’s fantasy that her success would make her mother healthier and more secure, both emotionally and financially. But now, unable to see her dying grandmother, unable to help her mother, she might soon be left with no parents, ‘no older seasoned beings, to advise and love me in this world’.
    In the autumn of 1957, returning to the United States and seeing Dr Beuscher again, she became more emancipated. The story ‘Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams’ was a by-product of the therapy. Typing up notes on other people’s dreams and problems, the narrator feels as if she’s secretary to Johnny Panic himself. In her diaries, Sylvia referred to the Panic Bird on her heart and on her typewriter, but, thanks to Dr Beuscher, she could get rid of the bird by expressing hostility to Aurelia.
    Taking dreams, anxieties and memories to a therapist was like taking essays to a supervisor at college. If she had to pay for specialist knowledge, Sylvia was going to make sure she got value for money by working hard at it. No-one else had ever talked like Dr Beuscher, and Sylvia could have complete confidence in her, as she once had in Grammy. Here was another alternative mother—an older seasoned being who’d never stop listening, never start complaining or reprimanding, never be shocked or impatient, but, unlike Grammy, she was young, attractive and impressively clever. Later on it came to feel as though permission to hate Aurelia was the same as permission to be happy.
    Aurelia had always seen Sylvia as an extension of herself, a means of compensating vicariously for the sacrifice she’d made when she gave in to her father and abandoned literature in favour of shorthand. No mother can encroach further on an adult daughter’s life than the daughter allows her to. Perhaps Sylvia would eventually achieve enough maturity to overcome her fear of being manipulated. Then she’d be strong enough to let Aurelia enjoy their relationship. But at some deep level, Sylvia wanted to be manipulated. [The Journals of Sylvia Plath pp 265-6, 275-7, 288-97]
    Though it was impossible to blame Aurelia for having such an unhappy life, it was impossible to forgive her. What did she know about love? Nothing. [Journals pp 266-7] The suicide attempt had caused her extra suffering, creating an even greater imbalance between sacrifices she’d made and rewards she’d received. After years of worrying about Sylvia’s dangerous love affairs and her failure or refusal to marry a nice boy who could give her security, Aurelia went on worrying about her even when she was married to Ted Hughes. Why couldn’t they both settle down to teaching jobs which would bring in a steady income? Sylvia couldn’t protect her from anxiety but could protect herself from feeling guilty about causing it.
    Her sessions with Dr Beuscher had shown how her unconscious fear of Aurelia and the need for vengeance still worked as a deterrent to writing. Anxious that her mother would appropriate stories and poems in the same way as she’d appropriate babies if these weren’t handed over to her, Sylvia tried to spite her by not writing, while the compulsiveness in the writing was due to a primitive equation between the self and the work. For a long time, writing had been a means of eliciting Aurelia’s approval. If you don’t love me, love my writing, and then love me for doing it. It felt like a liberation to be less compulsive about writing. The need for success had always been inseparable from the need to be rewarded for it with her mother’s love.
    Before the suicide attempt, Sylvia had been trying to please Aurelia by working for two hours a day during the holidays at her shorthand, as well as brushing up her typing. She was also intending to write for three or four hours each day, and to spend the same amount of time reading, not at random but from a carefully compiled reading-list. It would have been impossible to work as hard as this without resenting the necessity and resenting the overlap between the mother who wasn’t actually telling her to do all these things and the part of her self that was telling her.

    - pp. 47-50: Ambition seemed like the best antidote to the fears of madness and suicide that crowded in when she stopped to look inwards. Returning to Smith after four days at home for the Thanksgiving holiday, she told herself that if she had no past or future, she might just as well dispose of the empty present by committing suicide. In Haven House she never needed to be alone for long. Chatty girls surrounded her each time she went downstairs, but in her room she felt loneliness like a disease of the blood, dispersed through her body. She was vaguely homesick, but without her possessions in it, her room at home no longer looked like her own, and the spots on the darkened yellow wallpaper seemed more prominent. Brains and good looks were useless to her. The Smith timetable gave her only a false sense of purpose. She felt as if life consisted of loneliness, as if there were no living being on the earth except herself. Parties were pointless, grins were false. [Journals p 56]
    In June she took a summer job at the Belmont Hotel on Cape Cod, where she was scrubbing tables when a telegram arrived. Her story ‘Sunday at the Mintons’ had won a $500 prize from the magazine Mademoiselle. She screamed with joy and threw her arms around the headwaitress. But when a combination of overwork and over-excitement made her ill, she left for home and lapsed into a depression which inspired the bell jar image. The glass jar both isolates you and distorts your view of the world outside. She’d been alternating between life and ‘death-or-sickness-in-life’. The days on Cape Cod had been hectic and competitive, but, surrounded by attractive young people, dancing, chatting, laughing, kissing, working, she’d felt more alive than she did in Winthrop, where she had more freedom but less contact with other people. She used the bell jar image again in a letter to a Smith friend, saying she’d gone around for most of her life as if she were in a rarefied atmosphere, with everything scheduled—four years at college, summer holidays to be filled by taking jobs and never more than two or three weeks of leisure.
    Intensely self-critical, she felt at twenty that she was emotionally like a sixteen-year-old. Self-conscious about her height, she avoided high heels, but in flat shoes she looked like a bobby-soxer. Going out with boys she couldn’t stop herself from over-reacting and overplaying her bursts of enthusiasm, though she was aware of trying too hard to make them like her.
    But she was happy again when, after replying to an advertisement in The Christian Science Monitor, she got an au pair job for six weeks in Chatham, doing housework, helping to prepare meals and looking after children. When she left, she was thanked on a joke cheque made out to ‘the gal with the winning smile, 1,000,000 thanks for the 1,000,000 things so lovingly and cheerfully done’. And in August the publication of ‘Sunday at the Mintons’ made her euphoric. She drove to the beach with peaches, cherries and the new issue of Mademoiselle. Reading her story, she noticed so many flaws that she felt she’d already outgrown it. Chortling to herself, she ran in the sun for a mile through the warm tidal flats, telling herself how marvellous it was to be alive and brown and full of energy and to know so many exciting people. ‘I never have felt so utterly blissful and free.’
    But within two months she was suicidal. Tearful and unable to sleep properly, she felt envious of her boyfriend, Dick Norton, who was being treated for tuberculosis in the Adirondacks. At least he was being taken care of. The tasks she had to perform were tiresome and pointless: all the effort was leading her nowhere. She felt hollow. Workmen on the roof of the house opposite were intolerably noisy. All her activities had been badly planned, all her potential misused, all her opportunities wasted. The life ahead looked sordid and uninviting, with no idealism, no cause to redeem it. There was no continuity between past and future, no prospect of communicating meaningfully with other people, though she had everything she’d thought she wanted. In three years she’d earned $1000 by writing, had bought some beautiful clothes, had a good-looking, intelligent boyfriend. But she’d never be able to make her life cohere, never succeed in articulating the vague desires seething inside her.
    She might have to become a secretary or a housewife, subordinating her ambitions to those of her boss or her husband. In the meantime she could confide in neither Aurelia nor Dick. During her first year at Smith her confidante was her room-mate, Marcia Brown, who lived off campus during her second year, which meant they saw relatively little of each other. No-one could help Sylvia, and she couldn’t afford psychiatry. The only solution was to wear a mask – hide her terror and self-pity under a pose of cheerfulness and serenity.
    She stayed up late at night, writing poetry or writing in her diary. It was important to capture mood-changes and moments of insight. When she felt something stirring inside herself – a revival of optimistic determination – she could describe it, moment by moment, like a sports commentator.
    Four days later she was in despair again. She’d lost all her pleasure in life; she was too indecisive even to go out for a walk. Half helplessly and half deliberately she was cutting herself off from her creativity. She couldn’t love, had forgotten how to laugh. Nearly all her letters home give an impression of even-tempered cheerfulness, but the one dated 19 November starts by warning Aurelia to brace herself and take a deep breath. For about a week, Sylvia says, she’s been feeling tense and sick, and has almost considered suicide as an alternative to taking the science course. Panicking, she thinks the college authorities will expel her if she tries to evade the science requirement. She’s behind in her work and is being driven inwards.
    She consulted the college psychiatrist about the science course, and she was intending to consult the doctor about her insomnia. When she telephoned home, arguments with her mother were audible to other girls in the house, and her confessional letters to Ed Cohen had given him an impression of ‘the agitation, the dissatisfaction, the unrest, the annoyance, the lack of co-ordination, the nervous tensions that mark the time that a person approaches the ultimate breaking point. Syl, honey, I think you’ve moved much too close over these past few months.’
    It was apparent during the Christmas holidays, when she went to stay with Dick Norton in Ray Brook, New York, that he was assuming they’d soon be married, and, feeling bad about not wanting to be his wife, she took a suicidal risk. She borrowed skis and, without having had any instruction, except from Dick, who couldn’t ski, she went on the rope-tow to the top of the advanced slope and tried to ski down. In The Bell Jar, when Esther does the same thing, the idea of suicide forms in her mind as ‘coolly as a tree or a flower’. She knows she won’t be able to stop when she launches herself downwards. With the white sun hanging over the hills, she feels happy as an answering point in her body flies towards it. Plummeting past zigzagging skiers, she sees people and trees receding on either side of her, like the dark sides of a tunnel, as she hurtles towards a bright point like ‘the white sweet baby cradled in its mother’s belly’. Before she learns her leg is broken in two places, she looks up at the dispassionate sun, wanting ‘to hone myself on it till I grew saintly and thin and essential as the blade of a knife’. Like Kafka, she enjoyed thinking in terms of violently aggressive images angled at self-destruction. In his life the habit seems to have played a part in the psychosomatic process which engendered the disease that killed him; in hers it possibly helped to tilt her towards suicide.

    - from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath; back cover (Praise for The Bell Jar):

    “Esther Greenwood’s account of her years in the bell jar is as clear and readable as it is witty and disturbing.... [This] is not a potboiler, nor a series of ungrateful caricatures; it is literature.” --New York Times

    “The first-person narrative fixes us there, in the doctor’s office, in the asylum, in the madness, with no reassuring vacations when we can keep company with the sane and listen to their lectures.” --Book World

    “The narrator simply describes herself as feeling ‘very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel.’ The in-between moment is just what Miss Plath’s poetry does catch brilliantly—the moment poised on the edge of chaos.” --Christian Science Monitor

    - pp. 264-265 (Chapter 20): A fresh fall of snow blanketed the asylum grounds—not a Christmas sprinkle, but a man-high January deluge, the sort that snuffs out schools and offices and churches, and leaves, for a day or more, a pure, blank sheet in place of memo pads, date books and calendars.
    In a week, if I passed my interview with the board of directors, Philomena Guinea’s large black car would drive me west and deposit me at the wrought-iron gates of my college.
    The heart of winter!
    Massachusetts would be sunk in a marble calm. I pictured the snowflaky, Grandma Moses villages, the reaches of swampland rattling with dried cattails, the ponds where frog and hornpout dreamed in a sheath of ice, and the shivering woods.
    But under the deceptively clean and level slate the topography was the same, and instead of San Francisco or Europe or Mars I would be learning the old landscape, brook and hill and tree. In one way it seemed a small thing, starting, after a six months’ lapse, where I had so vehemently left off.
    Everybody would know about me, of course.
    Doctor Nolan had said, quite bluntly, that a lot of people would treat me gingerly, or even avoid me, like a leper with a warning bell. My mother’s face floated to mind, a pale, reproachful moon, at her last and first visit to the asylum since my twentieth birthday. A daughter in an asylum! I had done that to her. Still, she had obviously decided to forgive me.
    “We’ll take up where we left off, Esther,” she had said, with her sweet, martyr’s smile. “We’ll act as if all this were a bad dream.”
    A bad dream.
    To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream.
    A bad dream.
    I remembered everything.
    I remembered the cadavers and Doreen and the story of the fig tree and Marco’s diamond and the sailor on the Common and Doctor Gordon’s wall-eyed nurse and the broken thermometers . . . and the twenty pounds I gained on insulin and the rock that bulged between sky and sea like a gray skull.
    Maybe forgetfulness, like a kind snow, should numb and cover them.
    But they were part of me. They were my landscape.

    - p. 207 (Chapter 15): I knew I should be grateful to Mrs. Guinea, only I couldn’t feel a thing. If Mrs. Guinea had given me a ticket to Europe, or a round-the-world cruise, it wouldn’t have made one scrap of difference to me, because wherever I sat—on the deck of a ship or at a street cafe in Paris or Bangkok—I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.

    - from The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath (Edited by Ted Hughes); p. 21 (1956):

    Conversation Among the Ruins

    Through portico of my elegant house you stalk
    With your wild furies, disturbing garlands of fruit
    And the fabulous lutes and peacocks, rending the net
    Of all decorum which holds the whirlwind back.
    Now, rich order of walls is fallen; rooks croak
    Above the appalling ruin; in bleak light
    Of your stormy eye, magic takes flight
    Like a daunted witch, quitting castle when real days break.

    Fractured pillars frame prospects of rock;
    While you stand heroic in coat and tie, I sit
    Composed in Grecian tunic and psyche-knot,
    Rooted to your black look, the play turned tragic:
    With such blight wrought on our bankrupt estate,
    What ceremony of words can patch the havoc?

    - pp. 38-39:

    Dialogue Between Ghost and Priest

    In the rectory garden on his evening walk
    Paced brisk Father Shawn. A cold day, a sodden one it was
    In black November. After a sliding rain
    Dew stood in chill sweat on each stalk,
    Each thorn; spiring from wet earth, a blue haze
    Hung caught in dark-webbed branches like a fabulous heron.

    Hauled sudden from solitude,
    Hair prickling on his head,
    Father Shawn perceived a ghost
    Shaping itself from that mist.

    ‘How now,’ Father Shawn crisply addressed the ghost
    Wavering there, gauze-edged, smelling of woodsmoke,
    ‘What manner of business are you on?
    From your blue pallor, I’d say you inhabited the frozen waste
    Of hell, and not the fiery part. Yet to judge by that dazzled look,
    That noble mien, perhaps you’ve late quitted heaven?’

    In voice furred with frost,
    Ghost said to priest:
    ‘Neither of those countries do I frequent:
    Earth is my haunt.’

    ‘Come, come,’ Father Shawn gave an impatient shrug,
    ‘I don’t ask you to spin some ridiculous fable
    Of gilded harps or gnawing fire: simply tell
    After your life’s end, what just epilogue
    God ordained to follow up your days. Is it such trouble
    To satisfy the questions of a curious old fool?’

    ‘In life, love gnawed my skin
    To this white bone;
    What love did then, love does now:
    Gnaws me through.’

    ‘What love,’ asked Father Shawn, ‘but too great love
    Of flawed earth-flesh could cause this sorry pass?
    Some damned condition you are in:
    Thinking never to have left the world, you grieve
    As though alive, shriveling in torment thus
    To atone as shade for sin that lured blind man.’

    ‘The day of doom
    Is not yet come.
    Until that time
    A crock of dust is my dear home.’

    ‘Fond phantom,’ cried shocked Father Shawn,
    ‘Can there be such stubbornness—
    A soul grown feverish, clutching its dead body-tree
    Like a last storm-crossed leaf? Best get you gone
    To judgment in a higher court of grace.
    Repent, depart, before God’s trump-crack splits the sky.’

    From that pale mist
    Ghost swore to priest:
    ‘There sits no higher court
    Than man’s red heart.’

    - p. 41:

    Miss Drake Proceeds to Supper

    No novice
    In those elaborate rituals
    Which allay the malice
    Of knotted table and crooked chair,
    The New woman in the ward
    Wears purple, steps carefully
    Among her secret combinations of eggshells
    And breakable hummingbirds,
    Footing sallow as a mouse
    Between the cabbage-roses
    Which are slowly opening their furred petals
    To devour and drag her down
    Into the carpet’s design.

    With bird-quick eye cocked askew
    She can see in the nick of time
    How perilous needles grain the floorboards
    And outwit their brambled plan;
    Now through her ambushed air,
    Adazzle with bright shards
    Of broken glass,
    She edges with wary breath,
    Fending off jag and tooth,
    Until, turning sideways,
    She lifts one webbed foot after the other
    Into the still, sultry weather
    Of the patients’ dining room.

    Last edited by HERO; 10-27-2012 at 11:41 AM.

  35. #35
    Haikus Beautiful sky's Avatar
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    A lovely SEE.

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  37. #37
    A dusty and dreadful charade. Scapegrace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maritsa Darmandzhyan View Post
    I think I just pissed myself laughing. You've out done yourself.

    Miss. Plath was a classic IEI whiner.
    "[Scapegrace,] I don't know how anyone can stand such a sinister and mean individual as you." - Maritsa Darmandzhyan

    Brought to you by

  38. #38
    Haikus Beautiful sky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scapegrace View Post
    I think I just pissed myself laughing. You've out done yourself.

    Miss. Plath was a classic IEI whiner.
    No. There's no Fe anywhere. It's just Fi with Se

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    Sylvia Plath was IEI because IEI is "The Poet". Nicki Minaj is SEI because SEI is "The Peacemaker".
    “Must get that Capel street library book renewed or they’ll write to
    Kearney, my garantor. Reincarnation: that’s the word.

    — Some people believe, he said, that we go on living in another body
    after death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived
    before on the earth thousands of years ago or some other planet. They say we
    have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives.

    The sluggish cream wound curdling spirals through her tea. Better remind
    her of the word: metempsychosis. An example would be better.”

    —from Ulysses by James Joyce

  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scapegrace View Post
    Miss. Plath was a classic IEI whiner.
    This is probably more of a conventional, prejudiced, and unconscious judgment (originating from the attitudes of one's parents) masquerading behind the charade (and alibis) of the Socionics Dogma.
    “Must get that Capel street library book renewed or they’ll write to
    Kearney, my garantor. Reincarnation: that’s the word.

    — Some people believe, he said, that we go on living in another body
    after death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived
    before on the earth thousands of years ago or some other planet. They say we
    have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives.

    The sluggish cream wound curdling spirals through her tea. Better remind
    her of the word: metempsychosis. An example would be better.”

    —from Ulysses by James Joyce

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