Tag Archives: Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath on Electroconvulsive Therapy, Pt. 2

A description of ECT applied a little better in the mid-1950s, from The Bell Jar, pgs. 213-214: [i]

Through the slits of my eyes, which I didn’t dare open too far, lest the full view strike me dead, I saw the high bed with its white, drumtight sheet, and the machine behind the bed and the masked person  ̶  I couldn’t tell whether it was a man or a woman  ̶  behind the machine, and other masked people flanking the bed on both sides.

Miss Huey helped me climb up and lie down on my back.

“Talk to me,” I said.

Miss Huey began to talk in a low, soothing voice, smoothing salve on my temples and fitting the small electric buttons on either side of my head. “You’ll be perfectly all right, you won’t feel a thing, just bite down…” And she set something on my tongue and in panic I bit down, and darkness wiped me out like chalk on a blackboard.


[i] Harper Perennial Modern Classics edition, ASIN B004N8X6LK

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Sylvia Plath on Electroconvulsive Therapy, Pt. 1

A description of ECT poorly applied in the mid-1950s, from The Bell Jar, pg. 143: [i]

I tried to smile, but my skin had gone stiff, like parchment.

Doctor Gordon was fitting two metal plates on either side of my head. He buckled them into place with a strap that dented my forehead, and gave me a wire to bite.

I shut my eyes.

There was a brief silence, like an indrawn breath.

Then something bent down and took hold of me and shook me like the end of the world. Whee-ee-ee-ee-ee, it shrilled, through an air crackling with blue light, and with each flash a great jolt drubbed me till I thought my bones would break and the sap fly out of me like a split plant.

I wondered what terrible thing it was that I had done.

A note to clients: the use of ECT has really improved since then.


[i] Harper Perennial Modern Classics edition, ASIN B004N8X6LK

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Filed under The Client's Side