Sylvia Plath in Mad Men
Julia Turner chats with readers about "Lady Lazarus."
Julia Turner was on Slate’s Facebook page on Monday to chat with readers about the latest episode of Mad Men. The following transcript of the discussion has been edited for length and clarity. To see the full conversation, click on this link.
Julia Turner: Hello, all! I'll just be listening to the Beatles over here!
Julia Turner: Here's my take on why Rory Gilmore is not the girl for Peter Campbell.
Jamie Harding: I'm trying to figure out whether Pete is going to kill himself. That reference to his life insurance covering suicide after two years was a little *too* obvious. But he still looks like he's in a severe downward spiral that he won't be able to pull out of.
Julia Turner: Jamie, I agree that the foreshadowing about Pete and suicide—the gun, the insurance policy, the depression—is so heavy-handed as to make his actual suicide unlikely.
Jamie Harding: And when I saw the empty elevator shaft, I also had a flashback to that awful tragedy at Y&R! Why didn't Don tell someone??
Julia Turner: And though the elevator shaft was a powerful and horrifying image—the floor opening up beneath our man—I thought it was in poor taste given the recent death at Y&R.
Jamie Harding: Julia, I agree—it was too soon to be using the elevator shaft metaphor. It really squicked me.
Penny Ashley-Lawrence: I think Pete kills Roger. His suicide is too obvious.
Julia Turner: But how could he! Roger gave him the skiing account, and those skis! I did love the physical comedy of Pete struggling to haul those skis into the office, and, later, the elevator. And I think they could be a funny metaphor for Pete's moment: He's reached the top, and it feels empty. It's all downhill from here.
Cassie Djerf: Love Roger's quip about getting to see him struggle with the skis too.
Julia Turner: What did you all make of the episode's title, "Lady Lazarus"?
Cassie Djerf: Speaking of suicide—another nod with Sylvia Plath's poem as the title of this episode. There's death abound and resurrection/re-invention. Megan & Don's working relationship has "died"—the death of Roger's marriage to Jane, Pete's slow spiral downward to God-knows-what ...
Julie Kramer: “Lady Lazarus” is a poem by Sylvia Plath from 1962. It references suicide: "Dying/ Is an art, like everything else/ I do it exceptionally well" but also "Out of the ash/ I rise with my red hair/ And I eat men like air."
Julia Turner: Yes, Julie, I thought the Plath poem, which is in many ways about rebirth and reinvention, applied to Megan, but also to all the characters. Don Draper is a master phoenix, risen from the ashes of Dick Whitman. Part of what unsettled him this episode was confronting the fact that his newest incarnation—hip city dude with hot young working wife—wasn't making her as happy as it made him.
Julia Turner: Roger has remade himself. Joan has remade herself. Don, Peggy, and Pete have yet to confront or adjust to the new realities.
Cassie Djerf: Peggy I think views a small death in her life—she no longer has Megan, this protégé she gave birth to ...
Julia Turner: Peggy in particular I am worried about. She has been pretty bad at her job on many occasions. She's biffed two Heinz pitches and one for Cool Whip, even though she's working very hard.