The Genesis of “Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom”

Karen V. Kukil at The Hudson Review:

Sylvia Plath was hungry for new experiences when she returned to Smith College as a junior in the fall of 1952 and wrote “Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom.” Over the summer she won a $500 prize in the Mademoiselle fiction writing contest with her short story “Sunday at the Mintons’.” When this psychological story was later featured in the Fall 1952 issue of the Smith Review, a literary journal Plath helped revive, it earned her the respect of Mary Ellen Chase, a successful author of novels, critical writings, and commentaries on Biblical literature who became Plath’s trusted mentor. In recommending Plath for graduate school, Chase wrote that in her twenty-seven years as an English professor at Smith she had not known a more gifted “literary artist.” Professor Chase contributed the first article to the Fall 1952 issue of the Smith Review—a definition of Smith College: “the one thing we are afraid of is apathy and indifference toward learning and toward life.” In “Mary Ventura and the Ninth King­dom,” Plath reinforces Chase’s criticism of complacency when Mary’s traveling companion remarks sadly that others on the train “are so blasé, so apathetic that they don’t even care about where they are going.

more here.

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