ted & sylvia

I've always been (like most smart,literary girls - it's a bit of a cliche, I know ;-) been very interested in Sylvia Plath. I became even more interested in her relationship with Ted Hughes when my own marrage fell apart in a way that was reminiscent of their own ending - sans me sticking my head in the oven - and at the same time I read "Wintering," by Kate Moses (who was my editor at Salon).

I just finished "Her Husband" by Diane Middlebrook and was reminded yet again of how divided people are on how their relationship ended and where the fault lies.

In my opinion, Sylvia was no picnic to live with. She was driven, bipolar, somewhat controlling, and a genius. But she was also a loving wife and mother who never did anything to deserve the way TH ended their marriage, with astonishing speed and cruelty.

(My own family has been deeply marred by male infidelity. We've had several instances of it over a couple of generations that have really caused deep wounds, so I admit to a bias against men who deal with their marital dissatisfaction with emotional or sexual infidelity.)

I do also think that if people had had a better understanding of mental illness at that time, no one who cared for her would have left SP to stay alone for the winter months following his betrayal in a freezing London flat with no telephone, no washer and dryer and two babies in diapers. It was a disaster waiting to happen.

I've yet to read Ted Hughes' parting shot in "Birthday Letters," but that's up next.

So what are others' thoughts on these two, their writing, their marriage, and the nasty end?


Anonymous said...

There was also the theory that she did not mean to kill herself that day, despite the history of suicide attemps, that a prospective nanny had been scheduled to visit that afternoon but never showed. If she'd kept the appointment, she might have found Sylvia alive.

Have you seen the movie? It really drives home the point of those little ones being left there like that.

Anonymous said...

I would like to not foist all of the blame on Ted Hughes, but after reading the story of his mistress, it's hard not to. He also took this new woman away from her husband. Later, their volatile relationship, plus Hughes new cheating, drove this mistress, who had a child with Hughes to kill herself, too. Oh, and their child. Who was 6.

Laura Linger said...

Ted Hughes was a philandering son of a bitch who was thanked for his appalling behavior by being made Poet Laureate to Her Royal Majesty in the United Kingdom.

His treatment of Sylvia, the mother of his children, was terrible, but his real crime was his treatment of Assia Wevill and his little daughter by Wevill, Shura. Assia certainly was no saint, but she was not deserving of how thoughtless, unkind, and downright cruel Ted Hughes was to her. And certainly little Shura deserved better. A father who loved her. A life.

Laura Linger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laura Linger said...

Oh, and I forgot...I just sold the poem that I wrote about Assia and Shura. Your earlier bit about the "Her Husband" book got me thinking about the whole sad situation, and I did quite a bit of research on Assia Wevill. Very interesting indeed. I could not stop thinking about her and her little daughter, and earlier this week, while in the shower, shampooing my hair, I started to compose this poem. In fact, I couldn't get out of the shower fast enough so that I could type it up.

dewi said...

I'm also a huge fan of SP. I too think TH should burn in hell.
However many women don't kill themselves over a husbands betrayal, no matter how nasty and ugly the situation.

I have always found it fascinating that TH had two different women in his life with very serious mental health issues and that both committed suicide. He sounds very dysfunctional in the type of relationships and women he choose, I believe this says a lot about him and the type of emotionally fragile women he preyed upon.

SP mental health had completely deteriorated; she was known to be bipolar. And probably spiraled into the abyss of postpartum depression. What a nasty combination of mental health issues and then having a scoundrel for a husband who disappears on you when you need him.

Anonymous said...

um..why the assumption he "preyed" on them: sick people usually attract other sick people. Personally I think they were both UNBELIEVABLY screwed up. You cannot imagine what it must be like to live with someone that is seriously, untreated mentally ill. I think the whole happy lot of them probably deserved each other.

Libby said...

I was on the hate Ted wagon until I read Birthday Letters. I'd be interested to hear your opinion. Not that I am now on the love Ted wagon, it just made me feel sad and awful for both of them instead of just her.