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Tumbling into Wonderland

Poe and Plath--Cabinet of Curiosities

By Liv AttersonPublished 4 years ago 5 min read

NOTE: before you read this please go listen to the podcast I have linked. It will help you, in understanding what I am talking about within this article.

Aaron Mahnke's Cabinet of Curiosities// Episode 14: Expelled

link: Episode 14: Expelled

Sylvia Plath

Alice Tumbling into Wonerland

“[…] Dying

is an art, like everything else.

I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.

I do it so it feels real.

I guess you could say I've a call. […]”

--Sylvia Plath, Lady Lazarus

The Bell Jar is a modern classic that takes a look at the effect depression has on a young woman named Esther Greenwood. It has been seen as a semi-autobiographical novel, in which many aspects of Esther’s life resemble the author’s life. The author being the poet Sylvia Plath. Plath was known for her brutally-honest and haunting way with words. Reading her work was as if her readers had taken a shot of vodka or whisky first thing in the morning—something strong forcing them awake, burning their insides and throat, leaving a bad taste in their mouth long afterwards, and yet they keep coming back for more.

Within the novel The Bell Jar our protagonist Esther attempts suicide after her summer in New York interning for a magazine. Plath herself had also attempted suicide by taking a handful of pills and crawling under her porch to be left to rot. It had taken days for her mother and brother to find her, vomiting up the pills, waking to newspapers stating that she was missing and that she was found. Plath uses her writing to tell her story of depression, of hurt and hopelessness, a cathartic method of getting her disorganized thoughts and indecisive decisions and unnamed feelings out of her mind.

This type of writing, with its haunting quality and brutal reality of life, is what made Sylvia Plath so loved today and her work, while few, widely and deeply loved. The ending of The Bell Jar gives us hope for Esther, that she is working on recovery and is being released from the hospital. We lose track of Esther after she leaves the hospital, never knowing if she meets the same dreadful end of suffocating herself in her kitchen like Plath did; of drinking in the fumes from the stove while her children slept in the other room.

In the end, I believe that writing saved Sylvia’s life more than once, allowing her to find people that cried over her pages because they finally knew of someone who felt the same way. Sadly, writing could not continually be counted on; it was a substitute for only so long.

Aaron Mahke’s podcast “Expelled”: thoughts

Mahke’s podcast episode titled “Expelled” starts off talking about a woman committing a murder of this baby. Whether the death of the child was accidental or intentional we as readers (or in this case listeners) do not know, Mahke goes on to tell us how the women was taken to court and held on trial. The town concluded that she was guilty and that she would be hung for her crimes in public, just outside of town. The court commissioned a gallows to be built and was later constructed for the hanging. This woman was brought up the steps, everyone in town staring at her, their eyes boring in as the rope was brought around her neck and the floor dropped out beneath her. For this tale, there was no saving grace in her final moments, no person to stand up in the last few seconds, shouting that she was not the murder, no one to plead that she was innocent.

The floor dropped, she fell and the rope tightened and snapped her neck. She died.

There are not too many things that seem unusual about this case, this seems like a standard, random, accidental killing. It is normal in all the ways beside one.

The woman was not a woman. The woman was not even human.

She was a pig—I mean a literal pig. A pink curly tail, four hooves, and a snout for a nose.

Now that I have gathered your attention for the second-half of this paper, I wish to talk about the literary similarities between two of America’s greatest authors-- Sylvia Plath and Edgar Allen Poe.

Both of these writers were well known during their life but only became literary icons after their death. A look into their somewhat tragic and/or depressing life and people became enthralled with their life story and literary works. Both having fought with mental illness and seeking an escape turned to writing. They fell down in a spiral, like Alice tumbling into Wonderland. These two became addicts of their own demise, Poe with alcohol and Plath with her love and suspect affairs of Ted Hughes. An alcoholic drinking problem sent Poe to the hospital, were he died days later. Plath ultimately ended up committing suicide for a possible number of reasons, but the biggest one that readers know of was that her husband Ted had cheated on her and left, off to start a new family and life.

Poe and Plath’s work are dark and unflinching. They take a look at the barbarity that is the mind and everyday-life, show it through the glass that warps your sight of the world, it shows you what they are seeing. How mental illness can distort your view of everyday-life and make mundane activities seem grueling.

Edgar Allen Poe and Sylvia Plath are unapologetically lethal writers.


About the Creator

Liv Atterson

on hiatus

Liv Atterson is a fiction writer, living in Indiana, with her cat, and ever-growing collection of books.

She plans to someday move to Washington State and work in a bookstore.

pronouns: she/her/hers

🔗 https://writtenbyliv.com

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