Don’t Worry Darling: The Plathian Paralell

Author’s Note: There should be an obvious warning for spoilers. Also, TikToker Don’t Worry Prequel, made similar comparisons to myself recently!

In Don’t Worry Darling, we are taken to a place where the American Dream is in full throttle. The dutiful wives wave off their husbands as they go off to work at the top secret Victory Project, headed by a man named Frank (played by Chris Pine). 

Florence Pugh’s character, Alice, is the wife to Harry Styles’ character, Jack. When Alice begins to experience things she cannot explain, questions are raised about what really goes on at Victory. Alice is met with furious shut downs by her husband, and looks of disdain from the other wives in the neighbourhood. 

I don’t want to give a full run down or the film, but I do want to make a point about the connection between Sylvia Plath and what the film represents. During one scene, we see a brief glimpse of the collected poems of Plath on the table in Alice and Jack’s home. It is obvious that Alice is the one reading it. 

Plath was unique to her time. The ‘50s were a time where women were still expected to stay at home and put food on the table for their husbands. Famously, after a bad spell, Sylvia resigned herself to that life when she married Ted Hughes. It is often said that she felt trapped in her marriage, as well as her own mind. 

The film’s overarching theme is this entrapment of women in a man’s world. To illustrate this point, let’s take a look at Sylvia’s poem The Jailer

“My night sweats grease his breakfast plate.
The same placard of blue fog is wheeled into position
With the same trees and headstones.
Is that all he can come up with,
The rattler of keys?

I have been drugged and raped.
Seven hours knocked out of my right mind
Into a black sack
Where I relax, foetus or cat,
Lever of his wet dreams.

Something is gone.
My sleeping capsule, my red and blue zeppelin
Drops me from a terrible altitude.
Carapace smashed,
I spread to the beaks of birds.

O little gimlets—
What holes this papery day is already full of!
He has been burning me with cigarettes,
Pretending I am a negress with pink paws.
I am myself. That is not enough.

The fever trickles and stiffens in my hair.
My ribs show. What have I eaten?
Lies and smiles.
Surely the sky is not that color,
Surely the grass should be rippling.

All day, gluing my church of burnt matchsticks,
I dream of someone else entirely.
And he, for this subversion,
Hurts me, he
With his armor of fakery,

His high cold masks of amnesia.
How did I get here?
Indeterminate criminal,
I die with variety—
Hung, starved, burned, hooked.

I imagine him
Impotent as distant thunder,
In whose shadow I have eaten my ghost ration.
I wish him dead or away.
That, it seems, is the impossibility.

That being free. What would the dark
Do without fevers to eat?
What would the light
Do without eyes to knife, what would he
Do, do, do without me?”

The title draws obvious comparisons to feeling like a prisoner in marriage. Also, there is a theme of being a pretty statue for your husband to look at and do whatever with. Her word choice is dark and grey. So, if we look at this poem with Don’t Worry Darling in mind, the mention of a “sleeping capsule” is particularly prominent if you have seen the film.

The mention of the colour red is also something to keep in mind.

“What holes this papery day is full of!” is key in comparing the unravelling of the world Alice has been led to believe is true and how trapped Plath feels. Sylvia goes on to question the colour of the sky, just like Alice questions why the eggs she tries to cook with are empty. Both are made to believe they are going crazy.

I have no doubts that Olivia Wilde drew these parallels on purpose. There is certainly nothing coincidental about the inclusion of Plath’s poems in that scene. Despite the commentary on the film, the overarching metaphor is still as pertinent today as it was in Sylvia Plath’s lifetime.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s