Friday, April 3, 2009

Nicholas Plath Hughes, January 17, 1962 - March 16, 2009

Perhaps like many other young women interested in English and American literature, I went through a Sylvia Plath obsession. I read all her poetry and her letters and journals, along with The Bell Jar. A few years ago I read a novel about her life, Wintering, and last year I watched "Sylvia" on DVD (the movie with Gwyneth Paltrow).

As a young woman, I found Plath's life to be deeply tragic and puzzling. As Plath followers know, she attempted suicide twice and succeeded the second turning the gas on while her children slept peacefully next door. (She carefully stuffed towels under the door so they would be safe.) A brilliant poet, she was in the prime of her career, but she was deeply depressed and jealous because of her husband's affair.

Apparently little Nicholas, just a baby at the time of her death, was not told about the circumstances of his mother's death until the 1970s. He too struggled with depression, and although he became a highly esteemed fish biologist, last month he too succumbed to deep depression and took his own life.

Sylvia Plath with children Frieda and Nicholas

I cannot imagine what it must feel like to grow up as a child knowing that your parent committed suicide. I was prompted to blog about this when I came across two articles written by other children of parents who had killed themselves: one by Linda Gray Sexton, the daughter of poet Anne Sexton, and the other by Jeremy Gavron, whose mother killed herself 2 years after Plath did.

Frieda and Nicholas as adults

Rest in peace, Dr. Hughes.

1 comment:

  1. I too went through a similar Sylvia Plath craze, but was especially saddened to find out that her precious son Nicholas, who she tried to keep safe also died by his own hand.