For those of you who own Sylvia Plath's Unabridged Journals, this picture of Plath and Elizabeth Bowen will be familiar, as it is included in the photographs section of the book. Plath interviewed Bowen for Mademoiselle magazine in 1953, the summer that would later become the inspiration for "The Bell Jar."
When I look at this photograph, my gaze always falls on the clothes Plath is wearing. Esther Greenwood felt trapped and confined in the clothes bought for her during her summer interning in New York, finally throwing them from the top of the Amazon Hotel roof at the end of her stay in the city.
"Piece by piece, I fed my wardrobe to the night wind, and flutteringly, like a loved one's ashes, the grey scraps were ferried off, to settle here, there, exactly where I would never know, in the dark heart of New York."
I look at the photograph of Sylvia and Bowen and wonder to what extent Plath's personal feelings mirrored that of Esther's. Did Plath feel as trapped and frustrated as Esther Greenwood behind the smiles of this photograph?