WHY ARE WE SO UNWILLING TO
TAKE SYLVIA PLATH AT HER WORD? NEW LETTERS ALLEGING ABUSE ARE ONLY SHOCKING IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN LISTENING – Emily Van Duyne – Literary Hub – July 11, 2017
I don’t write this to argue that there is some kind of conspiracy or cover-up of Hughes’s behavior, or even that there is a single thread of golden truth about their marriage that these new letters, or any new document (oh, for those torched last journals!) will suddenly, gloriously reveal, allowing us closure on Plath’s biography. Instead, I want to point out the cultural bias against women’s voices and the domestic truths of women’s lives and the deep role this has played in painting Plath as both a pathetic victim and a Cassandra-like, genius freak. It is only in a culture where these two things be claimed simultaneously that Hughes, a known philanderer and violent partner, can spend forty years botching the editing of, or outright destroying, his estranged, now dead wife’s work, then win every conceivable literary prize and be knighted by the Queen. It is only in this culture that Plath can tell of his abuse, in print, for the better part of the same 40 years, only to have the same reports in a handful of letters recognized as “shocking.” And it is only in this culture that unseen letters detailing abuses as dreadful as a miscarriage induced by beating, and the expressed desire that one’s wife was dead, be described, without irony, as “tantalising.”
The gif above is from the movie Gaslight, which Van Duyne refers to in her article when talking about the relationship between Plath and Hughes.