I never thought I would utter those words. When I was younger, I wished I lived in England so I could be one of those crazy women chiseling off Hughes name from Sylvia Plath’s headstone. I, too, blamed Ted Hughes for her suicide.
Now that I’m older and have more information, I don’t blame him. I think it’s wrong for anyone to desecrate a person’s headstone especially when that was the man Sylvia chose to marry.
As I am reading Lover of Unreason: Assia Wevill, Sylvia Plath’s Rival and Ted Hughes’ Doomed Love, my defense of Ted grows even stronger.
In the book, Koren and Negev have been criticized for making Ted out to be a monster. They report, from Ted’s own letter to Assia, how Ted left a detailed schedule for Assia to follow on a daily basis.
It sounds harsh, but when you look at the life Assis was accustomed to, it made sense. Assia was the perpetual spoiled little girl and it wasn’t her fault; she was raised that way. Also, look at the situation Ted found himself in. His wife, who he loved, just killed herself. He was now a full time parent dealing with the grief of his wife’s death. He needed normalcy. He wrote a list.
And then there’s the Assia took Ted away from Sylvia line of thinking. It’s time to think again. Ted married Sylvia. Throughout the marriage, Sylvia became increasingly ill. Ted was used to Sylvia being one way and then she started turning into a shell of herself. He freaked out and needed a break. Insert Assia, who, by the way, was one husband number three. I am in no way saying it is okay for people to step outside their marriage. However, I am looking at the whole picture. Sylvia is falling into a deeper depression. She can’t control herself and she knows she needs help. The only time in her life when she really got the help she needed was when she tried to kill herself before. It makes sense she would try a second time. However, this time the nurse was late and she died. Ted doesn’t know what to do. He needs time and distance. Assia is appealing and seems like a perfect distraction.
In the book, Koren and Negev claim Ted was making his way back to Sylvia. The Monday following her death, Ted planned to take Sylvia on a holiday. In my opinion, Ted was never going to permanently leave Sylvia. They loved each other to the point of destruction. I feel Ted married Assia because he needed a mother for his kids. He couldn’t raise them alone and he never wanted to raise them alone.
Ted isn’t to blame for Sylvia’s death. She had a mental illness that was not treated correctly. It killed her. No one killed Sylvia; not even herself. An illness killed her.
Blaming Ted is wrong. He hurt just as much as the world did when Sylvia died. Ted did not bring this tragedy on himself; he was a man trying to make sense out of a non-sensible situation.