01 January 2021

Sylvia Plath: Thunder Stealer

It is true. Sylvia Plath stole someone's thunder. She did it twice. To Ted Hughes, no less, within months of marrying him. 

In the first days of October 1956, Sylvia Plath was at Whitstead in Cambridge, England, writing a blitzkrieg of letters to Ted Hughes and receiving a nearly equal amount of letters from him. It was a daily thing. Reading these letters leaves one probably feeling breathless. 

According to her calendars, on the 8th and the 11th of October, Plath was at work writing a story called "The Wishing Box", and it was here that she stole Hughes' thunder. In the story, Agnes Higgins is envious of her husband Harold Higgins' dreams. The end of the story is grim as Agnes takes an overdose of pills. But before this, Plath's protagonist writes about two of her husbands' dreams in particular...

Agnes wrote of the former, "Harold dreamed that a red fox ran through his kitchen, grievously burnt, its fur charred black, bleeding from several wounds." And of the latter,

Harold was particularly fond of his fox dreams; they recurred often. So, notably, did his dream of the giant pike. "There was this pond," Harold informed Agnes one sultry August morning, "where my cousin Albert and I used to fish; it was chock full of pike. Well, last night I was fishing there, and I caught the most enormous pike you could imagine—it must have been the great-great-grandfather of all the rest; I pulled and pulled and pulled, and still he kept coming out of that pond.

These are, of course, the basis for Ted Hughes' poems "The Thought-Fox" and "Pike". But Sylvia Plath published them in Granta in January 1957. This is about 8 months before The New Yorker printed "The Thought-Fox" on 31 August 1957 and two and a half years before "Pike" was published in Audience in Summer 1959.

All links accessed 27 December 2020.

1 comment :

Lynn said...

A lot reminds me of The Bell Jar there.. words and events..and names.. Higgins reminds me of Higginbottom (but also Olive Higgins Prouty. Sultry "It was a queer, sultry summer".. the pills..

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