Picture this - Sylvia Plath is standing calmly in her kitchen garden. In Devon, it's a balmy summer evening. She has a large bundle of loose papers in her arms. A bonfire burns at her feet. She tears up page after page of writing while her mother and daughter watch from the kitchen. She lights the papers and watches them burn while leaning over the fire.
As far as we know, this actually occurred in July of 1962, the year in which Plath penned several of her most renowned poetry. However, the specifics are vague. The papers she held in her arms that day were either love letters between Plath's husband Ted Hughes and another woman; draughts of Hughes's poems; all of Plath's letters from her mother; the entire manuscript of an unpublished Plath novel – or a combination of all of the above, depending on who you believe.
Biographers disagree about whether the burning was motivated by jealousy, vengeance, sadness, or even witchcraft. This is considered as only a colourful narrative, merely a footnote in one of Plath's poems, for a few. While others believe that this was barely the tipping point in the Plath-Hughes marriage, when it all went down in flames.
Disappointment, melancholy, and bitterness characterised the very being of Sylvia Plath's existence. Her relationship with her parents, particularly with her father, was harsh and bitter. Growing up during World War II did not assist the country's atmosphere, which was dark and bleak. Plath's father, who was of German heritage, died of diabetes when she was eight years old, and his death affected her deeply, despite the fact that their relationship had never been established or stable. She never had the opportunity to work out her unresolved feelings with him because she was so young. She hid when he was around, even when she was eight years old, since she was afraid of him. When she was in his company, his strict and dictatorial demeanour created an impenetrable barrier between them. Plath loathed her father by the time she was eight years old, and instead of making memories with him in the yard, she despised him and refused to have anything to do with him. Plath's poetry was extremely influenced by these deep-seated emotions.On Feb 25, 1956, Plath met poet Ted Hughes at a small gathering in Cambridge, England. On June 16, 1956, the couple got married and went to honeymoon in Benidorm, Spain. Plath and Hughes moved to Massachusetts the subsequent year, where she taught at her former school, Smith College. When she started teaching, she struggled to find the time and energy to write. After another move and lengthy travel, the couple returned to London at the end of 1959. Frieda, the couple's first child, was born on April 1st, 1960. Plath miscarried their second baby, the folllowing year. Plath wrote about Hughes beating her two days before the miscarriage in a letter to her therapist, which was later revealed. The loss is addressed in several of her works, notably "Parliament Hill Fields." Nicholas, their son, was born in 1962. And that is when things started to get tough.
Assia Wevill and her third husband, Canadian poet David Wevill, were asked to spend a weekend with Plath and Hughes, in May of 1962. Plath and Hughes took a vacation to Ireland a few months after meeting Assia. Hughes then travelled to London on the fourth day to meet Assia, with whom he went on a 10-day tour across Spain, the same country where Plath and Hughes had honeymooned. When he returned home, the marriage fell apart because he refused to cease his affair with Assia. In July 1962, Plath and Hughes got divorced. During the droll winter of 1962–1963, Plath moved into a flat with her children, essentially acting as a single parent to her infant boy and toddler daughter. She died by gassing herself in her kitchen as her children slept sweetly in another room, as is well known.
Plath's life was a cruel culmination of tragedies - one after the other, falling into her lap. With nothing she could do, she turned inward and wrote beauteous pieces of poetry. When it all got too much, she tried to kill herself. Repeatedly. One of world's most renowned poets was lost to all of us in a tragedy - the tragedy of life.