Despite Sylvia Plath's death in 1963, her writing is still finding its way onto the bookshelves today. As Plath has been one of my all-time favorite authors, I was excited to find that her short story, "Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom" was being published for the first time. While we know Plath for her poetry and "The Bell Jar," there is still a large amount of her writing that has remained unshared with the public because of the requested privacy of the family or for various other reasons. Like most of her writing, this story takes on a personal tone as it mirrors a friendship that Plath had while attending Smith College. With a new piece of herself being shared with the world, we can experience another side of Plath as both an individual and a writer. As these pieces of her writing continue to be released, the sense of Plath reaching out beyond the grave to the new generations of readers becomes greater as she shares a deeper bond with those that are familiar and new to her work.
With a 4 out of 5 stars rating on Goodreads, 5 out of 5 stars on Barnes & Noble, and 4 out of 5 stars on Audible this short story is off to a great start being only being released on January 22, 2019. Despite being only 41 pages, this short story embraces many of the same tones and similarities that are seen in Plath's previous works. Yet, despite these similarities, it provides a different outlook on change and hope from her previous works.
As a short story, "Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom," is a fictional-horror tale based on a girl, Mary Ventura, who finds herself on board of a train traveling on a journey to the ninth kingdom. However, nothing is quite what it seems at first. While her parents purchased the ticket for her, she was unsure of where she was going. What is the ninth kingdom? Why did her parents buy her this ticket? For as Mary Ventura soon finds out, "Once you get to the ninth kingdom, there is no going back." Her parents had decided her path for and despite her own concerns about the trip, she did not voice her objections, accepting her fate. However, finding that the ninth kingdom "is the kingdom of negation, of the frozen will," she must decide if she will continue on the path set for her or take fate into her own hands.
With the use of symbolic and allegorical literature, Plath's story tells of independence and rebellion in a world of control and conventionalism. While this story may have been written over sixty years ago, it still parallels issues in today's world. While we often deal with predetermined expectations, normalization, and mainstreaming of society's views and beliefs these matters challenge us to choose between conforming to what is decided for us or becoming independent from those decisions and influences. From beyond the grave, Plath still pushes the boundaries and strengthens the hope for autonomy.
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