Creating Lives

  • Linda Wagner-Martin
Part of the Literary Lives book series (LL)


As decades have passed, it has been difficult to return in time to assess Sylvia Plath’s relationships with either of her parents, though it is the persona of the father who exists more tangibly in her writing. Otto Plath as readers know him from her fiction and poetry was from the start a highly fictionalized character. According to Plath’s mother, the warm and loving father figure created in her early fiction was “90% her adoring grandfather,” Aurelia’s father, “Grampy” Schober. In an unpublished 1988 letter, Mrs. Plath expanded on the description of her husband’s invalidism, expressing for perhaps the first time how dismal the family’s life was during the four years of his misdiagnosed illness — and how separate the children’s lives were from their father’s existence. She described the “four years of horrible illness, reactions I kept the children from witnessing” by making their upstairs playroom the center of their lives, the place “where their meals were served and eaten while I either read to them or made up wild and humorous stories to fill them with imagination and fun. It was a world apart from the huge ‘bedroom-study’ on the first floor on the other end of the house which was silent.” Because of the specter of Otto Plath’s illness, Aurelia concluded, “My husband never hugged, never kissed his children, fearing he had something communicable that closeness would transfer… [he] never took a walk with them, played [with] or touched them. [There were] no ‘talks’ — [only] a pat on the head at bedtime.”1


Gender Power Cross Word Literary Life Humorous Story Early Poem 
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  1. 8.
    Sylvia Plath, “Among the Bumblebees,” Lilly Library, Indiana University; published posthumously in Bananas 12 (Autumn 1978), pp. 14–15Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Linda Wagner-Martin 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda Wagner-Martin
    • 1
  1. 1.University of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA

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