Sylvia’s Bell Jar
She changed her name to Higginbottom, E.
then raised her glass of wine to Madamoiselle;
to New York City and society.
Anonymous, she ventures into hell.
The fifties presupposes white-glove stance
the social ladder climbed most carefully.
We women had the vote but little chance
to join Man’s world. We lived…uncertainly.
So brave to throw away her steno pad
forsaking all Aurelia’s imbued schemes.
She grabs the poet’s place which makes her glad
but life is not so simple as our dreams.
Frustration climbs into a safe cocoon
thrice turning up the gas to fill her room.
I recently finished Plath’s “Bell Jar”. Born in 1934 (Plath born 1932), I remember those days. For most of us, marriage and kids was society’s expectation. Many women happy with that but Sylvia wanted more; much more. Her book seems to fall apart midway. Perhaps that is exactly what she meant the reader to feel- like one is losing their mind and things are falling apart. She was driven. Suffering clinical depression, she had a tough time tolerating disappointments; her husband not the least of those. She tried to kill herself 3 times: once by drowning, once by taking pills after return from NY trip and discovering her rejection slip for Harvard summer writing course (with IQ 166, that must have really steamed her!), and finally succeeding by turning on the gas in a London flat soon after publication of her book.