01 December 2020

A View from Sylvia Plath's "Day of Success"


Sylvia Plath wrote her short story "Day of Success" sometime in 1961. Most likely between February and August. She was living at the time in 3 Chalcot Square (based on the address on a typescript held by Smith College), the building that later thirty-nine years later was awarded a special English Heritage Blue Plaque. 

The seeds of the story had been fertilizing for some time as the story features a young married couple with a baby. The baby is six-months old. But it would be false, as I once did, to think that the story was composed circa October 1960 when Plath's daughter Frieda was that age. The story expertly merges events over several months, which is something Plath employed, also, in writing The Bell Jar. But it likely cannot have been written then because of a later scene in which Jacob Ross returns home very late from a business meeting with Denise Kaye to discuss a play of his. The even this may have been famously modeled from is the one where Ted Hughes returned home late from a meeting with Moira Dolan of the BBC. Hughes returned home to find his Shakespeare and manuscripts shredded to bits. Plath changed the ending to something much happier as this was a story written expressly for the women's magazine market. 

As time goes by and I think about this story, I think it may have been composed in late July or early August 1961 for the simple fact that it involves the couple, at the end, deciding to move out of the city into the deep country. Lots of people dislike reading Plath's creative works biographically, but I am not one of them. 

The typescript of the story, held by Smith College, has the Chalcot Square address typed in the top right. The typescript at Emory appears to be a copy, possibly typed after Plath's death.

In the story, Ellen Ross (possibly a name derived from her acquaintance with Eleanor Ross Taylor) stops for a moment to look out of her window at the square. 

from Bananas (1975)

I was privileged to see the inside of the flat on three occasions. This is the view she was seeing (photograph from 8 February 2014).


1 comment :

Unknown said...

So cool to share her window and its frame that is reflected in her words. Makes things quite intimate. Thanks for this fresh sense of her consciousness. We are now all looking through windows.

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