Monday, March 23, 2009


Nicholas Hughes, the son of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, is reported to have taken his own life last week. A professor of fisheries and ocean sciences, at the University of Alaska, Hughes was 47.

I'm not sure why but this news fills me with a profound sadness. Something about the 'sins of the fathers' and all that Lear stuff -- I'm really sorry he didn't manage to lose his own demons even while having to live with his mother's.

Much is made of happiness and I'm not sure that I hold with the current American idea that one should be happy all of the time. Sadness and melancholy contribute to life's glorious prism. Death is a very final choice, however.


John Hayes said...

It is indeed sad & disturbing news; from reports I've read today it sounds as though both he & his sister have suffered from depression, & as someone who only sought help for that within the past year myself, I know it's a tough way to go. It's also sad because it just furthers the whole Plath suicide mythos. Sylvia Plath was a very gifted poet whose reputation has been skewed by the way she's so often anthologized-- always a slant toward her more sensational work.

Thanks for posting this thoughtful consideration.

Miss Whistle said...

Thank you, John Hayes. I'm still trying to understand why the news is so disturbing. Maybe it's the tragic inevitability; somehow we always assume we are beyond fate.

John Hayes said...

I believe it's disturbing simply because it does seem like a web of doom, or tragic inevitability-- Plath is typically presented as a "doomed" poet (which is odd in a way, because for instance the whole suicide mythos isn't as stressed about John Berryman). The fact that her son took his own life just reinforces that fatalistic sense. I agree with your point about expecting happiness, & I agree that we can't escape ultimate fate-- but common things that lead to suicide in relatively young people (& Plath herself was quite young) like depression, addiction, PTSD etc. can be helped if people will seek the help out. So is it inevitable?