Her Novels Make Mine Possible
The Influence of Virginia Woolf on Sylvia Plath

In “Ariel,” Plath encapsulates her memory of a runaway horseback ride while a student at Cambridge. The language of the poem recalls Esther’s improperly executed electric shock treatments in Plath’s novel, The Bell Jar. Here, in a passage that Plath marked in her copy of Jacob’s Room, Woolf’s description of a horseback rider mirrors the language and motion of Plath’s “Ariel.” However, while Woolf’s rider is jerked from his position of command and rides until his horse comes to a halt, Plath’s persona, after being thrown against her will with her dead limbs flailing, takes control of her flight, asserting, “I am the arrow / suicidal at one with the drive.” Image: book spread
Virginia Woolf. Jacob’s Room. London: Hogarth Press, 1954.

Image: 3 pages
Sylvia Plath. “Ariel”: holograph, 27 October 1962.

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Sylvia Plath Collection
Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College

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