Sylvia Plath’s life was hell

‘An owl’s talons clenching my heart’

Sylvia Plath’s life was hell

American poet’s life of hell


Lifelong depression ended with her sticking her head in a gas oven.

February 11, 1963. Half past four in the morning. She went into the kitchen of her London home, turned on the gas stove and breathed poison all the way to oblivion.

A clumsy way to die. She was thirty years old.

She left behind two children. At least she spared them. She had sealed the rooms between the kitchen and her sleeping children with towels and tape.

Sylvia Plath, known for her confessional poetry and the autobiographical novel ‘The Bell Jar,’ had tried to kill herself before. Ten years earlier she took an overdose of pills in the basement of her mother’s home.

Nine years after that she deliberately drove her car into a river and had to be fished out.

Sylvia Plath married the British poet Ted Hughes when she was 23. She described him as “a lion with a voice like the thunder of God.”

Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes
Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath

They had two children, Frieda and Nicholas.

They lived in London. Then one day along came Assia Wevill, a German woman who escaped the Nazis at the beginning of World War II. Hughes and Assia fell in love and had an affair.

The mistress
Assia Wevill

Sylvia found out about it and left Hughes.

It was all downhill after that.

Being cut off from Sylvia hit him hard. Six months into the separation, Hughes wrote to a friend, “That’s the end of my life. The rest is posthumous.”

His misery notwithstanding, Hughes and his mistress had a daughter together, named Alexandra Tatiana Elise, nicknamed Shura.

Six years after Sylvia Plath’s suicide, Assia killed herself and took Shura with her. Shuria was just four years old.

Innocent victim
Poor little Shuria an innocent killed by an insane mother.

And how did Assia commit this dreadful deed? She sealed off adjoining rooms and turned on the gas oven. Not original but tried and proven.

More misery was to follow. In 2009. Nicholas, the son of Silvia Plath and Ted Hughes, hanged himself at his home in Fairbanks, Alaska. He was 47.

Nicholas Hughes

Who can blame him? With parents like that he didn’t have a chance.

Sylvia Plath was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1982.

Ted Hughes became Britain’s Poet Laureate in 1984 and held the office until his death in 1998. He was 68.

Plath once described her despair as “an owl’s talons clenching my heart.”

One hell of a life.

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2 thoughts on “‘An owl’s talons clenching my heart’

  1. Torment indeed. Ted Hughes made matters worse with his womanizing, but to me the worst tragedy was his German mistress taking the little girl with her when she killed herself; unconscionably selfish in my mind. At least let the child have a life.