Monday, July 6, 2009

Abigail on the Classics

Did you know that when The Bell Jar was first published, Sylvia Plath used the pseudonym Victoria Lucas? It was only after she took her own life that the book that would become her definitive work was published under her real name.

I feel sorry for the poor girl. She wrote The Bell Jar - the story of a gifted woman who wars with thoughts of suicide - from the standpoint of someone intimately knowledgeable. She wanted anonymity. Perhaps some would say it does not matter now. She is gone. She is not here to demand Victoria Lucas be known as its author. And she is not here to need her privacy. But I believe if it mattered to her while she lived, it should matter just as much to us in her death. Who is to say what we believed to be of great importance while we lived ceases to matter at all when we die.

I have read that while in college, Sylvia wrote in a letter: "I've gone around for most of my life as as in the rarefied atmosphere under a bell jar." I took enough science classes in high school and college to know what a bell jar is for, at least the kind I think Ms. Plath was talking about. This kind of jar has a rounded top and a bottom that is open. Put it on a snug base with a firm seal and you can create a significant vacuum. And of course, that lovely clear glass allows wonderful visibility to lookers-on. Whatever is being tested under the vacuum will have a ready audience.

I do believe I can relate to what life is like inside the bell jar. It can suffocate you. Some cannot break the glass and get out. I just learned that from the inside you can paint the glass black so that at least no one can see in.

But then, you cannot see out, can you? So which is worse, I ask you?

I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow. Esperanza is taking me. Something is not quite right. I kind of wish the glass around me wasn't so dark. . . .

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