“I am afraid of getting older,” wrote the seventeen-year-old Sylvia Plath in 1949, “I am afraid of getting married. Spare me from cooking three meals a day — spare me from the relentless cage of routine and rote. I want to be free…..I want, I think, to be omniscient……I think I would like to call myself ‘The girl who wanted to be God’” (Gilbert & Gubar, p. 1044). This was not an impossible task for Plath. She achieved omniscience in the safety net she created in her writings of dynamic emotions and imagination, by sharing her feelings that raised her above the clamor of life, and by grasping our hearts until full, her writings ageless.
In the quote stated above, though anxieties pervade Plath here, I see something that many or most women struggle with — trying to break free from what’s expected of us. Secondly, inadvertently she expresses the will to be in charge when women are locked into that image of standard behavior of a married woman and these are your chores. Thirdly, she expresses the desire to be omniscient, an independence of physical work, obedience, old age, and attachment. How often do we stray from what we dream of or want for ourselves? How often was she pulled away from those words which contained her deepest self? Omniscience, from this point on, seemed to edify a goal, not just a desire.
Though she achieved omniscience when her writings were published, losing her father and having her marriage fail were sad events leaving her to grieve for those losses. Her writings are shared causing us to shiver in excitement, but her freedom was exacerbated by sharing her time with the things she felt imprisoned by in everyday matters that took her away from a freedom writers wish for, to be free to just write, unrealistic but godlike. Her individuality as a poet had to be claimed and maintained. I get that there is a driving force within her to be above the vociferation knowing that there’s much she wants to do and she wants to do it without expectant obligations, something not easily possible when having to care for children and a husband.
I can only imagine the strain she put upon herself and the stasis of society and family encroached upon her to encourage a breakdown. She was brilliant and a hard worker, an artist, and I propose that between the demands of society, family, and writing, she was not up to all of life’s challenges mentally and emotionally at the end.
Her poems, stoked by her state of emotions which demanded exit, made her intense and deep, and were very much felt in her writings that she does most deliciously and imaginatively. She frolics in the image she portrays in her poem, Daddy, when you feel her rebelliousness in “I began to talk like a Jew. I think I may well be a Jew.” Also, she reiterates her feelings of her father when she writes, “I’ve always been scared of you; with your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.” She describes him as if he is Hitler, “your neat mustache; and your Aryan eye, bright blue.” Her artistic defiance melds into hate in, “Not God but a swastika; Brute heart of a brute like you (Plath, Ariel, p. 75).” It’s almost as if she’s stomping on his grave shouting, “Good riddance!” A vilification possibly stemming from the anger of his leaving her at a young age. We can appreciate someone that writes with such audacity, stirring our emotions in a pot, letting it simmer, then how delicious to sip in the broth she provides that’s hot and steamy.
Her emotions are so deeply felt; her writings so passionate. She gave the world what was best when she could express those feelings of resentment and anger freely through her imagination, including her joy. Not only in her writings, but in choosing to end her life, which I do not condone, she achieved her desire to be omniscient, not waiting for life to set a death warrant for her end, not leaving that to chance. In a very small sense I find a beauty in that, her leaving the world on her own terms when she needed it most. She was done and left her best with us. In further meaning, it’s good to forgive her as we all should.
Plath will uplift your soul and mind as if bathed in sunshine and warm rain mists drip from your face. She is the force of a lesson in life or at school, the full impact raising your intelligence to a level undiscovered yet. She is the heart of a vacation, the beauty of a breeze caressing your face, a light so bright it sweeps you into an undisclosed dimension of soundlessness and painless wonder. She frees your soul not knowing where you’ve been or where you are except in this boundless pool of beautiful scenery where you trust her to guide you onward to discovery.
She possessed omniscience like no other. She has become ageless by her writings which survived and will go on and on with each new reader of her works. It’s a profound feeling to know that we can further her existence and partake in her infinity by sharing what she has written with others knowing ourselves she’s just upon the shelf and we think to visit her today. In this way we can make her ever present as she has made her presence alive among us most exceptionally delightful and extraordinary.
Gilbert, Sarah M. and Gubar, Susan. Daddy by Sylvia Plath. New York: The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women. Third Edition. Vol. 2: p. 1044. W. W. Norton and Company. February 2007.
Plath, Sylvia. Daddy and other poems. Ariel, Restored Edition, p. 74. New York: Harper Collins. 2005.