Complete Death | Ariel’s Birthday Letters
Poor Ted Hughes has taken one for the Plath team of shrill girls who go about crucifying him at every turn, every freshman year, that I imagine his life to have been in many ways a living hell. Still now, though a bit less so, he has borne the brunt of the blame for the death of his wife Sylvia Plath.
As anyone here who has been reading me knows, this has been the Plath Hughes month in which I have undertaken to review all books about Sylvia Plath - biographies, etc. and Hughes as well as read the original work of both poets, but in particular and what I’d like to focus on are Hughes’s Birthday Letters and Plath’s Ariel, which are, no matter where you stand, two of the most impressive volumes of poetry from what would be considered "modern" poets and younger poets.
As part of my project, I’ve been doing as you can imagine, not only a great deal of reading but also a tremendous amount of research. I recently came across an article entitled "Ted Hughes - A Talented Murderer." Unfortunately, it’s the point of view that a lot of self-professed Plath defenders seem to have taken and I find it a sad and curious one. After all, no matter that in the end we all know she killed herself, we also know that she had tried e and almost succeeded. This was no baby cry for help. Sylvia bent on death and suicide long before Hughes came into the picture. So then the issue becomes that knowing this, knowing her fragility in certain terms - her deep fear of abandonment that stemmed after the death of her father, which frankly, although this is hard, is a normal part of life and her reaction to it seems out of proportion to the actual event. We lose fathers, we lose mothers and brothers and lovers and we do not all go about killing herself. I’ve read Otto Plath’s work on bees and know a little about him as a person since I live in the town where Sylvia or Sivvy as she is known here, spent her formative years. Otto was German, typically removed and distant and more interested in his bees and his studies than in his daughter who deeply wanted his attention and affection.