‘Superman and Paula Brown’s New Snowsuit’ by Sylvia Plath


The year the war began I was in the fifth grade at the Annie F. Warren Grammar School in Winthrop, and that was the winter I won the prize for drawing the best Civil Defence signs…

More lost innocence and more feet of clay are dealt with in Sylvia Plath’s ‘Superman and Paula Brown’s New Snowsuit.’ A young girl growing up opposite an airport spends her nights dreaming that she can fly, like Superman “in his shiny blue suit with his cape whistling in the wind, looking remarkably like my Uncle Frank who was living with Mother and me.” But when she is blamed for something she didn’t do (pushing over her schoolmate Paula Brown and spoiling Paula’s brand new snowsuit) she is dismayed to discover that her inherent assumptions regarding ideals such as fairness and rightfulness are really quite useless when put up against the actual cruelty of other children and the fallibility of adult judgement:

The silver airplanes and the blue capes all dissolved and vanished, wiped away like the crude drawings of a child in colored chalk from the colossal blackboard of the dark.

First published in Smith Review, 1955. Collected in Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams and Other Prose Writings, Faber & Faber 1977

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