Sylvia Path was an American writer who was well renowned during the Post-Modern Era. Like many writers of the time, she lived a brief, yet interesting life. Throughout most of her adult life, Plath was clinically depressed, and she was very expressive about it in her writing. Her expression of such allowed her to advance the genre of confessional poetry—the kind that focuses on intense personal moments in one’s life. Plath committed suicide at age 30. Her death was a melancholic finale to her melancholic life.
In wasn’t the first time she tried killing herself. When her body was found, her head was inside an oven, and her children were sleeping in another room. It looked like an accident at first, but it was actually intentional. Plath thrust her head in an oven. I often ponder the order of her afflictions. Would an alternative sequence of transitory passes in Plath’s life have commanded a traditional death, or, at least, a traditional suicide? Ernest Hemingway blew his brains out with a shotgun, and he was the most interesting man in world.
Most documents covering Plath’s suicide attempts present the death of her father in 1940 and her failed admission into the Harvard writing seminar, which occurred roughly ten years later, to slant readers into assuming Plath undeniably lived with melancholia. However, it was in those scholastic years that Sylvia developed material for her diagnosis of “fig syndrome,” a concept she created in her work The Bell Jar.
The Bell Jar, was Plath’s only novel. She wrote under the pen name, Victoria Lucas. The story is semi-autobiographical, similar to how Hemingway wrote his work. She changed the names and locations to make it more original. The protagonist of the story descends into mental illness. It’s reflective of Plath’s history with clinical depression.
Plath visualizes all of her life choices branching out in a fig tree of possibilities. She declares, “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.” Arguably, Sylvia yearned for all lives the human world attained, and ached at the realization of their unattainability.
Plath mischievously romanticized the burden her psyche experienced in the company of the unattainable. Figments of others’ dispositions enveloped her senses and coiled around her lungs until the morning carbon monoxide cinched her composite. But I don’t think Plath was sick.
“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.” This excerpt from the The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath demands an idiosyncratic outlook on Plath’s prescribed depression.
Plath was aware her own physical entity was not capable of having the many “shades, tones, and variations.” Conversely, her conscious capacity to feel and respond to the innumerable mental experiences a person could have was vast. Such acknowledgment and acceptance of the most beautiful to the most disturbed measures of human nature warranted Plath’s behavior. She summarized the experience of her first medically recorded suicide attempt as, “blissfully [succumbing] to the whirling blackness that [she] honestly believed was eternal oblivion.” In other words, to her, the process of taking one’s own life was beautiful in its own tragically, bittersweet way. She attempted suicide to experience it like she experienced life itself.
It’s easy to romanticize suicide with legendary figures like Plath and Hemingway. Even in present times when icons like Robin Williams and Heath Ledger are taken from the world by their own hands, it’s comforting to create self-acknowledgement that their deaths were an art form. All of these individuals shared a common trait, and that is depression. In their minds, depression was writing a Shakespearean tragedy. With each suicide attempt, Plath was practically to end her life. With each attempt, someone, whether it was a doctor or her close friends, someone tried to save her. Even her children could motivate her to keep living. But in her mind, the world was failing her. Plath did not give up on her life entirely. She gave up on everyone else’s.