Monday, 25 November 2013

Articles. Sylvia Plath, The Multitudinous Woman ...

Today, I bought the Spanish magazine Vanidad. I usually don't purchase the hard print copy but look through their website. They have great contents and interviews about fashion, music, cinema and arts in general. In a section named Ojalá Siguiera Viva, meaning "Wishing she was still alive",  this month's chosen figure was Sylvia Plath. Of course, this brought all kinds of memories about her book "The Bell Jar" and the adaptation I was part of at University earlier this year. You can see a bit more here and here. Apart from being a good piece of biographical writing, it also brings to attention her feminist labour and how she became an icon representing women who wanted more from life apart from cleaning, cooking and having children. I have tried to translate it as correctly and faithfully as possible.
Para los lectores españoles, podéis leer el artículo completo aquí.

After sealing the door and kitchen windows with wet towels, she put her head in the oven. Carbon monoxide did the rest. She was 30 years old and had two children. She was called Sylvia Plath. This year is the half-century anniversary of the poet, one of the great icons of American popular culture. Her only novel, “The Bell Jar”, published a month before her suicide, appears in the hands of characters like Lisa Simpson, the witch Sabrina and Rory from “Gilmore Girls”.  “Sylvia Plath, an interesting poetess whose tragic suicide was interpreted as romantic by the college girl’s mindset” says Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) while holding in his hands a copy of “Ariel” in his first visit to Annie Hall’s (Diane Keaton) apartment. In 2001, Ryan Adams published a song called “Sylvia Plath” from the album “Gold”. In 2003 Gwyneth Paltrow gives life to the poet in the film “Sylvia”. In 2009, Lady Gaga quotes her in her song “Dance in the Dark”. This month it is published in USA a volume devoted exclusively to the drawings done by Sylvia. Cursed poet, good girl, pioneer of feminism, model for teen magazines, romantic suicidal housewife…

Sylvia Plath held many of the elements that fascinate restless minds, and many minds, unfortunately, are only restless during adolescence. When she finally suicide, in her London home in 1963, she was a housewife who wrote at dawn, before her children woke up. She prepared food, took them to the park… She had been abandoned by her husband, poet Ted Hughes, who left her for another poet Assia Wevill (who also committed suicide sticking her head in an oven). Put Plath, chronically depressed, had already tried twice before.
Born in Boston in 1932, Sylvia lived a happy childhood that disappeared at age eight, when her father Otto died.” I will never talk to God again” she said then. At age 11 she began a journal that she’d never abandon. It recounts her life at Smith College, a school for girls where men could not go to the first floor and where girls especially dressed for dinner. Sylvia received an award from the women’s magazine “Mademoiselle” which enabled her to spend a month in New York. There she experienced a tension that never was resolved: to be an American good girl, who posed Betty Garble style on a swimsuit and was obliged to please men, or become an intellectual who broke with the destiny patriarchy had chosen for her. The same dilemma was lived by thousands of women, young and old, who saw themselves reflected in Plath’s work and also in her life. 

On the way back from New York, after disappearing for three days and making it to the papers, made maybe into the first it girl in history, she tried to take her life. “This has been my last act of love” she said then. After passing through a Psychiatric facility and receiving electroshock therapy, Sylvia recovered and traveled on a scholarship to Cambridge. There she met the man of her life, Ted Hughes. They started writing poems to each other and Sylvia started exposing her innermost anxieties in her verses, “confessional poetry”. They married in 1956 and came back to the States. They had two children, Frieda and Nicholas. The latter became an eminent zoologist. In 2009, he committed suicide.
Back to Sylvia. In September 1962, on her way back to UK, she discovers her husband’s infidelity. The poet suffers a car accident, a second attempt at suicide. She survives and writes “Ariel”, one of her masterpieces, who many consider “ a long suicide note”. Sylvia found her death a year later and her fame began to grow. Her story made such an impact that it gave life to the “Sylvia Plath effect”, a term coined in 2011 by the psychologist James C. Kaufman to describe the tendency to mental illness in certain types of writers.

Sylvia Plath died a victim of a decision which changed her life: she was forced to choose one way of being a woman. She voiced the alarm about this silent form of male oppression. Fortunately, today more and more women can choose what and how they want to be, and can do so without excluding any of the facets which constitute the intimate reason of being a diamond.