Words written by Sigmund Freud
in "The Letters of Sigmund Freud and Otto Rank:
"Life is impoverished, it loses in interest, when the highest stake in the game of living, life itself, may not be risked. It becomes as shallow and empty as, let us say, an American flirtation."
"And happiness is what you need so bad, girl,the answer lies with you ...."
As I mentioned in a comment to Smareis for my September 24 post, I have dated women who were mentally unbalanced to one degree or another (in my opinion) and part of my work experience has been with convicted felons, both men and women, in a prison setting. I know the difference between sane people who do crazy things and people who are legally and/or medically crazy.
For instance, I once had an inmate secretary/clerk who had left her baby in a house and set the house on fire. She was a good worker, reliable and everything about her superficially seemed to indicate a gentle person. Her act was crazy, she was not. I am not sure which was the case with Plath.
I also knew someone who was subjected to shock treatment about the same time Plath underwent it. His reaction was like Plath's -- blue flashes, jolting and noise: "If anyone does that to me again I'll kill myself."
Reading the biography, "Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953," and her novel, "The Bell Jar," gave me a sense of who Plath was, but not enough insight to be sure of the depth of her mental abnormalities. I do know that still, after completing both books, I really do not like her as a person and would have ignored her on the "college dating circuit." I am curious mostly about the last year of her life and, maybe, will look for biographical material in that regard.
I think Plath was an excellent writer, and might have become a great one, although Bell Jar seems to me to be only an average novel. For whatever reason, "Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man," by Thomas Mann, and similar fiction kept popping into my mind while reading Bell Jar.
She painted pictures very well with words. She seemed wise beyond her years at times, but then I would remind myself that Bell Jar is not the book of a nineteen-year-old as it seems to be, rather the work of an experienced woman approaching thirty looking back at her comprehensive, teenage journals and turning them into sort of novel form.
I still do not grasp her prominence in the feminist movement, unless it simply is because she recognized the social/work inequality between men and women and spoke out about it loudly and clearly in Bell Jar. She described one man she dated as a woman-hater, and apparently felt there was no shortage of them: "I began to see why woman-haters could make such fools of women .... They descended, and then they disappeared. You could never catch one."
Perhaps oddly, Plath seems to me to have become a man-hater, in a sense, but it also caught my eye when she wrote she had not been happy since the age of nine, which translates into since soon after the death of her father. I would speculate that is one of the keys to unlocking Plath's psychology, although I imagine it would not be a popular argument with the politically correct crowd.
I like that she held James Joyce's, "Finnegans Wake" in low regard. I do, too .... in fact, lower than low.
I said earlier that I had come to the conclusion I did not like her -- at least during her college years. Never-the-less, I would have relished going out on a date or two with her and talked and talked and talked -- sort of a voyage of discovery -- but, I am not the sort of guy she would have dated in college.
I do wonder, however, if I would have changed my opinion and come to like her a decade later, when she was more experienced with life, married, a mother, a published writer and living in the hinterland between normalcy and psychosis.
Remember, this has not been a book review or a critique about Sylvia Plath's life or lone novel, "The Bell Jar," but more like a few random notes about things which entered my mind while reading material by her and about her. I am glad I read these things and learned as much as I did about her, and I would recommend her work to anyone and everyone.