Around 4am on the morning of February 11, 1963, Sylvia Plath took wet clothes and towels and sealed up her kitchen. She then sat down next to her oven, turned it on, and opened it. She died of gas asphyxiation.
There are many factors that could be considered when looking at Sylvia’s suicide.
- Ted Hughes & Assia Wevill Affair: Sylvia was devastated by the discovery of Hughes’s affair with Assia Wevill. She had spent their entire marriage trying to be a “perfect” wife while balancing her own passions. It is argued whether or not Hughes and Plath were going to reconcile before she committed suicide.
- Release of The Bell Jar: In January of 1963, The Bell Jar was released. Unlike today, the book was not very popular and produced quite a few negative reviews. This hurt Plath immensely.
- Anti-depressents: Before her suicide, Plath was prescribed anti-depressents. Though this was only days before and it would have taken a while to affect Plath, it is speculated that when originally treated with anti-depressents in the States, they had made Sylvia worse than better. Could this have impacted Sylvia’s mind so soon?
- Weather: Accordingly, February of 1963 was one of the coldest, most brutal winters that Great Britain had seen in 60 years. Could this intense winter affect whatever else was going negatively in Plath’s life?
Did Plath mean to commit suicide?
Is it possible that Plath did not intend to commit suicide? Was this simply a cry for help that did not go as planned? Some argue that Plath had intended to be found because of the fact that she asked when a neighbor would be home and leaving a note to call her psychiatric doctor. However, this is rebutted with the fact that Sylvia actually had her head directly in the oven, suggesting every intention of wanting to kill herself.
Sylvia Plath Hughes
Even amidst fierce flames
the golden lotus can be planted