The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath And Ted Hughes

The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes Summary & Study Guide
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He had been involved in an adulterous affair with another woman which ultimately destroyed the marriage. But there were many first-hand accounts and anecdotes that indicated that Sylvia was suffering from chronic depression and perhaps even more serious mental and emotional conditions. Dating back to her youth, some who knew Sylvia accused her mother of failing to address her mental problems; in fact, she served to enable them. Some critics believed that Sylvia's unstable mental condition was as much to blame for her suicide as was her husband's infidelity.

Part Two: Chapter I Summary and Analysis

This ownership passes out of our hands at birth, at the moment we are first observed. Never mind if it made no sense to a couple of flea-marketeers like Bill and me. View page in TimesMachine. In Tel Aviv, he interviews a barber who survived Treblinka. She got her wrong. The biographer is portrayed almost as a kind of benefactor.

After Sylvia died, Ted Hughes was given the majority of the blame for Sylvia's untimely death. Almost from the moment she died, Ted's actions were scrutinized and criticized by those who felt his abandonment of Sylvia was what pushed her over the edge. The majority of the biographies and memoirs placed this blame squarely on his shoulders, disregarding much of the evidence that Sylvia was difficult to live with and impossible to please. When he published "The Journals" by Sylvia posthumously, he introduced her works by indicating that he had omitted some of her writing, destroyed others and lost still others.

Ted was accused of everything from cashing in on his dead wife to repressing her artistry. But Hughes mainly stayed in the background and allowed his ferocious sister to deal with the "libber" writers—as she referred to women who felt a man [Ted] was repressing a woman [Sylvia]—and others that they felt were libelous and mean-spirited. Malcolm focuses much of her attention to Bitter Fame, which was written by Anne Stevenson. Stevenson is the only writer to work on her book in conjunction with Olwyn and, not surprisingly, the only book that places some of the blame for Sylvia's tragedy on Sylvia herself.

By the time the book was completed—which took four long years—Stevenson felt that the work wasn't hers and felt reluctant to have it published. She suggested that Olwyn Hughes be given credit for co-writing the book, but the publisher refused. Olwyn got her way—the book was the only book that Ted and Olwyn thought credible, although there were still portions that they disliked.

By interviewing the writers of the biographies and memoirs, Malcolm has provided an interesting backdrop to the work of a biographer, a thankless job that often pleases no one. As she said, a writer of fiction is never taken over the coals for his plot or characters, but most everyone doubts some aspect of non-fiction writing.

Janet Malcolm: Biased, Mean, and Brilliant

By digging into the various biographies of Sylvia Plath, Malcolm provides insight into the life and career of a mysterious figure whose real life will forever remain an enigma. Read more from the Study Guide. Browse all BookRags Study Guides. All rights reserved. Toggle navigation.

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Sign Up. In this story, Plath arrives at Cambridge immaculate, with her gold and white Samsonite luggage, her neat Smith College clothes, her shiny freshly-washed blond hair. But as it turns out, Anne Stevenson shares this view, and has projected her own experience onto Plath. Writing to Malcolm with fearful candour, Stevenson describes her own checkered history of alcoholism, despair and marital turmoil, down to leaving her children and husband to go off with another poet. Yet her pleasant house is a confusing maze of little rooms; she messes up the lasagna she is cooking for dinner; and she still seems dependent on men to bail her out.

Her quest is punctuated with many moments of discovery and combat. The Gulf War had begun a few weeks earlier; terrorism was feared, and travel had halted — my hotel was three-quarters empty. Somewhere in the gap between the blankness of the house and its tragic story is the enigma of the Plath legend she has come to solve.

The Tale of the Silent Woman

The taxi driver arrives with his wife and child in the back, and for the whole journey, the driver chats to Malcolm, sitting in front, and does not speak a word to his wife. After some futile efforts to bring her into the conversation, Malcolm desists. This was the real thing, this was sexism so pure and uninflected that it inspired a kind of awe. The juxtaposition inevitably stirs metaphoric echoes.

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On another level, the taxi driver and his silent wife and child become accusing symbols of another story. At the heart of the book, Malcolm comes face to face with Jacqueline Rose, whose critical book on Plath outraged the Hugheses. A brilliant literary critic, English rather than American, Rose is a formidable antagonist, and Malcolm braces herself for the encounter.

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Earlier she has told us how Plath had the habit of going to a park in Cambridge to cut a rose or two for her apartment with a pair of silver-plated scissors. Wisely, Rose serves her only biscuits and tea.

Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes

The Silent Woman book. Read reviews from the world's largest community for readers. From the moment it was first published in The New Yorker, this br. The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes [Janet Malcolm] on Amazon. com. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. In an astonishing feat of literary.

I would sooner cook for Michael Winner. After their meeting, guarded and wary on both sides, Malcolm writes Rose a letter which she does not mail, but prints in the book. Yet despite her own Freudian credentials, she does not look very deeply into this confrontation. He is a self-obsessed, blinkered eccentric, and his house is a bizarre junkheap, a set for The Caretaker.

How does one choose from the surfeit of material, the welter of details? It is also a metaphor of suicide: Plath stopped the conversation for ever, and spoke only from beyond the grave with her blazing poems. Such proud silences command our respect.

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Yet the silent woman of the title recalls a famous inn sign of a headless woman holding a tray. Is this woman silent or silenced, threateningly mute or deliberately shut up? Are the messages she bears from the underworld still too terrible to hear?

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