After all of this reading through many years now as an adult, i look at a photograph of Ted and Sylvia. They are dressed in their rain coats, and Sylvia has her hood up and her hands in her pockets as she leans in closer to Ted, bracing herself against the strong sea-wind and hard rain. Ted stands upright, a few steps a head of her on the stone jetty and unlike his wife, he is defiant to the wind - truly the colossus Sylvia had seen, firm and upright against the elements, unafraid and saying swallow me whole. Earlier today, i walked the half block from my apartment to the Winthrop beach and stood on teh same stone jetty of which Sylvia and Ted had stood. I looked at the rocks and thought of this young girl with her talent and her need and her brilliance and kindness and fury and hated the waste of it; the way she took herself from us.
I can't blame her. Hughes had turned his back on her for the more exotic Assia Weevil, with her dark good looks and red freckled face and her Tel Aviv background. It's not surprising that Hughes turned to Assia. She was the anti-Sylvia, everything Plath was not. She was controlled and cold in some ways, she was sophistacated and good at spin, she seemed self-possessed and secure, so unlike our fragile girl braced against the wind. Teh same girl who sits at home typing up page after page of poetry for her husband, putting his genius, she said, before her own because what he did was "important" and we gather, more important in her mnd than her own. Was it that Plath served Hughes to such a great extent that he lost his repect for her? If she had played the aloof, coy and cold seductress instead of hte needy and loving and sorrowful wife that she was, would he have loved her more?
From the outside, it seems that what Hughes wanted was respite - a break from Plath and her constant neediness. That much is understandable to a point and is the argument trumped about by others in their defense of him as they cluck their tongues and tell us how dificult Sylvia was, how impossible, which i don't doubt for a moment. I don't doubt it, but i also know that he knew of Plaths desperation. If anybody knew how fragile she really was it was Ted Hughes. He knew and he chose to marry her and in doing so, he tacitly told her and the world that he would be there for the haul. Yes people change, and yes, one can tire of this behavior, but there are ways of handling it. To lie to a person who is already on shakey ground, already worried that he is cheating (this was a constant fear of Plath's and it seems cruel that Ted would then follow it through). Hughes had played out Plath's biggest fear - that of abandonment and of not being good enough in every way, despite her tireless drive for perfection. In the end, Plath lost her colossus, the man she had seen as a sort of god to a woman who, with her husband David, rented the Hughes's London flat at Court Green. From the beginning, Plath had sensed "a current of attraction" (Weevil told a friend) between Ted and Assia. This was her home, her husband and her child and it felt to Plath like it had been invaded or somehow polluted by this woman who would steal her husband.