Elaine Showalter is a Professor Emerita of English at Princeton and the author of A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx. (November 2017)

NYR DAILY

Sylvia Plath’s Different Shades

One of the first things you see at “One Life,” the Sylvia Plath exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, is a long chestnut-brown ponytail tied with a blue bow. Plath’s mother cut it off when the poet was almost thirteen, and preserved it along with her letters and photographs. In the context of Plath’s deeply-documented life, this act seems like a ritual of female puberty, a cropping of the poet’s creative powers, and a shearing of their sexual potential. Plath believed that her mother, Aurelia, always disapproved of her poetic career and her marriage to Ted Hughes, and wanted her to choose a more stable profession, as well as a steady and sober husband.