Sunday, 7 October 2018
C a s s a n d r a S w a n
Notes From The Author
CANDY COTTON KID AND THE FAUSTIAN WOLF
Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, America on October 27th, 1932. She was a bright child who started to write poetry when she was five years old. Her first poem was published in a local paper when she was eight. Her father, Otto Plath (of German descent) was an authority on bee keeping and died suddenly of medically untreated diabetes in Sylvia's early childhood. She made her mother, Aurelia (German/Austrian), sign a document to say that she would never marry again. Sylvia had a younger brother, Warren; they were both very creative children. Sylvia's mother dedicated herself to her children wholeheartedly and she was extremely supportive of Sylvia who was encouraged to develop her talent as a budding poet and artist. Aurelia had to work hard to keep the family; Sylvia and Warren's education were of paramount importance to her. Despite her focus and her mother's support, Sylvia was deeply wounded by the death of her father. In the years that followed, it would appear that she never truly mourned her loss. This loss created difficulties in her growth process and early adult life with a psychiatrist, eventually resulting in a nervous breakdown and a suicide attempt at her family home, after staying in New York for her Mademoiselle Magazine Guest Editorship in June 1953. Sylvia was hospitalised and administered electroshock treatments and regular sessions with a psychiatrist. After a long period of containment, she returned to her college and studies with a new sense of purpose and the ability to express herself emotionally, which resulted in sexual exploration.
Sylvia was a high achiever, who would often over exert herself in her search for perfection. Her poetry and prose were regularly published in Mademoiselle, Seventeen, The New Yorker, Christian Science Monitor and The Atlantic Magazines; simultaneously she gained the highest grades in all her chosen subjects. She met Ted Hughes in Cambridge whilst studying at Newnham College; they both admired each other's poetry and a whirlwind romance began. They married secretly in June 1956. Hughes introduced Sylvia to the occult, the use of an Ouija board and he would often hypnotise her, teaching her pagan values. Sylvia devoted herself to marketing her husband's poetry and soon found she had assisted him to be a successful, well-published poet. Her poetry and prose were not so swift in terms of a collection being published. Sylvia bore two children, Frieda and Nicholas, and the family purchased a home in Devon after living in many different flats and rooms in Cambridge, London and Boston they settled into village life in England. The delightful cottage known as Court Green gave the outward appearance of ideal family life. In my opinion, Sylvia displayed signs of Post Natal Depression and sadly, Hughes betrayed his wife by adopting a mistress, not long after the move to Court Green. Sylvia took this very personally; she was shattered emotionally and angry. She did not give up, in fact Hughes' infidelity inspired the most dynamic and extreme of her works, including such titles as Lady Lazarus, Edge, Words and many more.
With Frieda and Nicholas as toddlers, Sylvia uprooted and moved to London in December 1962, to a flat that used to be occupied by the Poet Yeats no less! It was a bitterly cold, bleak winter in England; with a troubled mind, loss of weight, flue and children with colds, Sylvia still took time to write and write with immense determination. Hughes would visit her occasionally, but always went home to his mistress.
At this time Sylvia had The Bell Jar (An autobiographical Novel) published, under the pseudonym of Victoria Lucas. A combination of the book being published, illness, cold,
a lack of moral support and the grief involved in her pending divorce, triggered a long line of
emotional traumas which overwhelmed Sylvia.
Hughes met with his wife four days prior to her suicide at her flat; Sylvia had left her children with a friend. In her depressed condition, Hughes would have easily been able to hypnotise her and use post-hypnotic suggestion to encourage her to kill herself. (In a state of hypnosis, the right and left-hand brain hemispheres synchronize; at this point the person being hypnotised becomes receptive to auto-suggestion). Despite the promise of an au-pair, a psychiatrist and her prescription of anti-depressant tablets, on February 11th 1963, Sylvia committed suicide by placing her head in a gas oven. (After putting food and drink for her children in their bedroom and sealing the doors with tape and towels, so the children would survive). One of Sylvia's final poems – Edge – gives a poignant yet objective description of her own preparation for her chosen exit from this world; the most tragic conclusion to a troubled life, for Sylvia was truly unique.
Hughes sent a callous telegram, via a third party, to advise Sylvia's mother of her precious daughter's death, stating “SYLVIA DIED YESTERDAY”. Many posthumous collections of Sylvia's poetry were published thereafter (with Hughes at the helm as Editor) the first being Ariel. She attracted a cult following, greater than most poets do dead or alive. Olwyn (Hughes' sister) acted as Agent for the Plath estate and took on the role of mother to Frieda and Nicholas.
Hughes continued his relationship with Assia Wevill and subsequently she bore him a daughter. Yet another tragedy occurred when Assia committed suicide with their child who was two years old, by the same means as Sylvia! It appears to be perfectly evident that Hughes had a devastating effect on women. To drive two women to suicide, insidiously, by means that are not completely physically evident, is torture, indicative of the kind inflicted by a disturbed, even psychopathic personality. This type of personality can appear charming and kind; a wolf in sheep's clothing, one of the reasons why I composed a theory with this standpoint. Hughes did marry again in 1970's, curiously to a nurse; it is doubtful that he hypnotised her, as she outlived him.
Despite Hughes' foul play and often violent poetry, he was awarded the distinguished title of Poet Laureate in 1984. In the years to follow his merciless infidelity, he refused to break his silence and discuss Sylvia, his marriage to her and her suicide, or the suicide of Assia and their child. It is with great passion I have written this radical piece of work: having studied and researched Plath and Hughes diligently, daily for over a year, my findings also indicate that Sylvia could have been victim of sexual abuse in her early childhood. Her isolated sailing trips as a child with her uncle, an early tonsillectomy, regular bouts of sinusitis throughout her life, lead me to believe this theory is relevant and could explain some of her physical ailments, high-achieving personality, suicide attempts, mercurial highs and lows and subsequent pre-occupation with death. Sylvia was bi-polar and some of the aforementioned can sometimes be attributed to that diagnosis, but they are also connected to behaviours adopted by adults abused as children. Many abuse victims repress trauma; this is a safety-mechanism which delays the process of experiencing such a trauma, until the mind and body regurgitate the experience, often in women in their thirties. The sub-conscious mind has 3/
no conscious awareness; therefore the trauma lies dormant in the memory store, until such times as the person experiences further trauma later in life, which can trigger the original trauma to surface (as with Sylvia's marriage breakdown).
Victims of child abuse often over accomplish; this behaviour pattern is usually followed by periods of nervous debility, as Sylvia experienced regularly throughout her brief and fated life. In my work, I am simply giving Sylvia's traumas a voice – a resounding voice – and
confronting some of her repressed emotional pain, which caused her so many problems in her childhood, adolescence and adulthood. These traumas include, undoubtedly, the premature death of her father.
With the hope and aim to shed further light on a tragic life - for those who care to read - and unravel a complex life, Candy Cotton Kid and the Faustian Wolf was born.
We cannot exhume Sylvia Plath's frail body, to gain more proof or evidence of her untimely death, we can only hope to defend her from beyond her grave, as Hughes carefully planned to defend himself beyond his, stating that Sylvia's medication made her suicidal, inferring the medication was accountable for Sylvia's suicide. In 2001 Hughes' friend gave the letter to a newspaper, which published an article with an outline of the letter and its contents – yet another calculated, sober way of manipulating a reason for Sylvia's suicide. More recently, fresh evidence suggests Hughes was abusive and violent to Plath when she was pregnant with his child and she miscarried.
A final thought: just as Sylvia gained further recognition posthumously, should Hughes be stripped of his Poet Laureate title posthumously for the untimely death of Sylvia Plath, Assia Wevill and the two year old child Hughes fathered, known as Shura?
What do you think?
“ Candy Cotton Kid and The Faustian Wolf is a prismatic trip into the nectar of psychological disdain. It is a profound journey into the drowning world of human pain and it trades emotional melee with “the trireme a perverted dais.” It is a calling, a begging, melodic rampart that transcends the male mind to comprehend beyond its maleness and to concede a conscience that all sin is suspect of the “all seeing eye.” The richness of verbiage, the colourfulness and descriptiveness of such destructive realism, makes humanity stop in its tracts to consider, that sex is more a weapon than it is a gift of loving-kindness.”
– Daniel Scott Batten