“I believe that there are people who think as I do, who have thought as I do, who will think as I do.”
— Sylvia Plath
I first read those words as a teenager eager to gain insight into this mysterious figure. There were stories, so many stories of her marriage to Hughes, her mental illness and her suicide. Critics argued Plath’s work was inextricably linked to her life, I always disagreed with my professors and classmates in an easy-going manner. I accepted the incredulous looks and groans with amusement, after all, I knew better. As my professor patiently defined confessional poetry, I devised a counterargument: it was simply that there was more to Plath’s poetry than her tumultuous life.
When I became the American girl living in England, I began to understand the concept of foreignness. My voice gave me away, it revealed I did not belong. Often I told the same story again and again: “I’m a graduate student from the United States.” Strangers corrected me, “no, here you’re a postgraduate student.” Life was filled with quiet contradictions, people uttered words of acceptance and rejection in the same breath. What did I do? I went to the only place that made sense, Devon, not her Devon, as it no longer existed, at least I could not picture it. For a week I was myself; fearless, perhaps a bit naive to wander through Dartmoor alone. Although I did not fit, I came back to Devon over and over again. Maybe I was searching for her Devon or for the place that I imagined as a teenager. In the end I learned that I could not escape foreignness. We had one thing in common: being the Other in England.
“I could write and write.” -Plath
In my little flat, I read Plath again; not in the way feminists read her as a victim, I read her as a fellow outsider grasping what was familiar. Still I could not know her, we were generations apart, but perhaps, I could think as she did. So I set out to write a literary novel with Plathian influences, it was an ambitious goal as I was studying for a postgraduate degree in English Literature, my free time was spent at the British Library and various work experiences in publishing. But I knew what the story could be… I knew what it must be.
*Quotes are from journal entry 52.