You know what? I don’t know the answer. But neither do the authors who have made a cash business out of saying that Hughes drove Plath to suicide.
As I have said elsewhere, suicide is the product of mental illness. When a person self-eliminates, a collection of “authorities” like Job’s friends gather to dispense their theories about why it happened. The loss of Plath’s last diary does leave us without answers. But that has not stopped people from giving them anyways.
The anti-Hughes brigade tells us that Ted was trying to hide a Svengali-like murder. They weakly cite Plath’s earlier diaries. But can we take these as final proof of Hughes’s intentions? I think not.
We know that Hughes did edit the earlier diaries. He excised some portions which he felt might upset his children according to his daughter Frieda. The diaries themselves were left unharmed, waiting for a day when scholars might examine them. This raises the question: if Hughes’s intentions were good (let’s just try this as a thought exercise), what could have moved him to edit the earlier diaries and then destroy the last one? I look to Plath’s illness for an explanation. Some women experience psychoses regarding their children. Their offspring become evil in their eyes or they feel that they have to save them. This is not normal maternal behavior. Suppose Plath had voiced such emotions regarding her children. Suppose she had considered killing them? Or suppose she had considered herself an unfit mother, a sentiment not unknown among those suffering from bipolar disorder. Would you want your children reading that their mother hated them or would you let them preserve more positive images? This is my personal theory regarding the destruction of the last journal, chronicling a period when Plath was severely disturbed. I think it is at least as reasonable — if not more so — than the Hughes killed Plath by betraying her theory. He didn’t cut out sections where she disparaged him after all.
I think it is time to leave Hughes and his family alone. Plath’s son killed himself at age 47, strong evidence that he inherited the Plath Family genetic defect. Perhaps she negatively inspired him. I don’t think Hughes was an evil mastermind or mere brute. But I wonder about those ideologues who bore Plath’s bier and committed an act of suttee by immolating Hughes with their suspicions.