Luke Ferretter: On "Plath's Writing on the Verso"

Plath typed both ‘Tomorrow Begins Today’ and ‘Home Is Where the Heart Is’, the other story she wrote in January 1955 for the Christophers, and which also features a strong heroine who teaches herself a lesson in moral value, on the verso of drafts of her poem ‘Bluebeard’. The poem and the stories on either side of the pages symbolise the difference between the ways in which Plath wrote about gender relationships in poetry and in fiction at the time. If her 1954– 55 stories feature strong women, in control of their relationships to men, her 1954– 55 poems are about women not only at the mercy of their passions for men, but often in danger of being attacked, killed and even eaten by them.

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‘Terminal’, another poem on the verso of which Plath types ‘Home Is Where the Heart Is’, is about a dream in which the male dreamer sees his lover served up to him to eat by the powers of hell:

for feast the sweetest meat of hell’s chef d’oeuvres:

his own pale bride upon a flaming tray. (CP 328)

The comparison with the contemporary story on the verso of the drafts of this poem is instructive. Both take place in the kitchen. Initially, Mrs Arnold, the heroine of ‘Home Is Where the Heart Is’, feels unfulfilled by her life as a housewife and mother. Indeed, her home is described with one of the metaphors Plath uses for the lack of control the speakers of her poems feel in love, the circus in three rings. A request for help from her husband, however, stops her feeling sorry for herself, and she cooks a successful meal for his important dinner guest and thinks of ways to keep her three children happy at the same time. She had been thinking of entering a competition to win two weeks in Paris, but she realises at the end of the story that the most beautiful and exciting place she knows is her own home. She takes control of her life, and becomes the mistress of her relationship to her husband and children. In the poem Plath had drafted on the other side of the typescript of this story, by contrast, the wife becomes not the mistress of her kitchen but the meat in it. The home in the poem is hell, and the woman is eaten by her husband in it. On the two sides of these pages, we can see how, at this period of her creative life, Plath was using fiction to portray women in control of their relationships to men, and poetry to explore the consciousness of women controlled by men, or at least by their passion for those men.

From Ferretter, Luke. Sylvia Plath's Fiction. Edinburgh, GBR: Edinburgh University Press, 2010. p 63-65. (http://site.ebrary.com/lib/wpi/Doc?id=10409236&ppg=76).

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Criticism Overview
Title Luke Ferretter: On "Plath's Writing on the Verso" Type of Content General Poet Criticism
Criticism Author Luke Ferretter Criticism Target Sylvia Plath
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 18 Oct 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication No Data
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Contexts No Data Tags Verso

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