This oversight became part of the critical response of many writers when the unfortunate suicide of the poet was followed by the publication of Ariel in 1965. Ironically, it may have been Ted Hughes' own wish to avoid the autobiographical reading of the poems (as critical of himself) that gave much of the initial impetus to those who read Plath's work as martyrology rather than poetry. The poems in Ariel were prepared for publication by Plath. On her death, Hughes withdrew some work and rearranged the order of the poems. Significant work was omitted at a crucial time for the assessment of Plath's body of work but, "worse, the published Ariel destroyed the artistic pattern of Plath's manuscript (Pollitt 95).
But most critics choose to ignore such approaches to Plath's poetry because their concentration on the details of the poet's life obtrudes on their vision of her work. Tripp suggests that in such "author-centered criticism" a great deal of "what initially seems obvious (including the supposed manifestations of Plath's personality) is a virtual image or mirage, a special effect of a certain type of reading" (261). Though Tripp's is a feminist approach, feminist readings of the poems are either successful or unsuccessful in the same way as any critical approach. If they look beyond the surface qualities of the biographical-poetic relationship and deal with the poems as poems, then the critics stand a better chance of understanding what Plath was about when she prepared her work for the reader.
The fallacies, critical blindness, and limited readings that are generated by typical biographical readings that are based on the "virtual image or mirage" of Plath in her poems are epitomized by the initial error made by readers of Ariel (Tripp 261). If, in 1970, Corrigan claimed to be discouraged by her failure to find any sign of Plath's interest in "the contemporary struggle of woman for complete selfhood, autonomy," the reader has to wonder if her percepti