In my mind, the writings and lives of my two favorite female writers have always been intertwined: Sylvia Plath, who has unfortunately been reduced to a stereotype, and Flannery O’Conner, whose work displays a biting, sarcastic realism that has resonated with many people for decades.
Both are creators of classics, both are popular with teenage malcontents, especially young women and literary scholars alike. Both died tragically young, Plath at 30 and O’Connor at 39, although the circumstances behind Ms. Plath’s death are significantly darker than Ms. O’Connor’s hereditary lupus. Their lives may have had few similarities beyond this, but their writings display a connection that can’t be ignored.
In a way, they complement each other; Plath’s famous The Bell Jar describes isolation, dissatisfaction, and depression with a skill unique to someone who’s been through it all; A Good Man is Hard to Find and Good Country People make you laugh (or despair) at the oddity and irony of everyday existence. In my experience, each piece is appropriate for a different time in life. Plath’s poetry and novel are helpful for bad days, bad weeks and bad months. They articulate feelings that can’t always be put into words, at least not by any simple means. O’Connor’s short stories bring about a new and surprisingly clear perspective on the life and times of the average citizen.
As I move toward graduation, I know that, in some ways, life will grow more confusing. When that happens, I’ll try to keep in mind the lessons I’ve learned from these writers: everyone is a little odd, and no one has to go through it alone.
Hannah Barger is a Wilson Central High School graduate in the class of 2014 and plans to major in journalism at Tennessee Tech University in the fall.