One of my favourite authors is Sylvia Plath and my treasured book of her’s is The Bell Jar. This passage resonated strongly with me in the context of life choices. She was a gifted writer who travelled a journey so many of us have travelled. It is terribly sad that she took her own life and lost her battle against depression.
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 27, 1932. Plath met and married British poet Ted Hughes, although the two later split. The depressive Plath committed suicide in 1963, garnering accolades after her death for the novel The Bell Jar, and the poetry collections The Colossus and Ariel. In 1982, Plath became the first person to win a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.
A poet on the rise, Sylvia Plath had her first collection of poetry, The Colossus, published in England in 1960. That same year, she gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Freida. Two years later, Plath and Hughes welcomed a second child, a son named Nicholas. Unfortunately, the couple’s marriage was falling apart.
After Hughes left her for another woman in 1962, Sylvia Plath fell into a deep depression. Struggling with her mental illness, she wrote The Bell Jar (1963), her only novel, which was based on her life and deals with one young woman’s mental breakdown. Plath published the novel under the pseudonym, Victoria Lucas. She also created the poems that would make up the collection Ariel (1965), which was released after her death. Sylvia Plath committed suicide on February 11, 1963.
Much to the dismay of some admirers of Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes became her literary executor after her death. While there has been some speculation about how he handled her papers and her image, he did edit what is considered by many to her greatest work, Ariel. It featured several of her most well-known poems, including “Daddy” and “Lady Lazarus.” He continued to produce new collections of Plath’s works. Sylvia Plath won the Pulitzer Prize in 1982 for Collected Poems. She is still a highly regarded and much-studied poet to this day.