The Wishing Box

Plath, Sylvia

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Willms, Janice
  • Date of entry: Nov-22-1996


Agnes Higgins envies her husband Harold's ability to have brilliant and captivating dreams, nightly exotic dreams which he can recount to her in vivid detail. Agnes's dreams, when she has them, are ugly and frightening. Harold begins to coach Agnes in techniques for achieving perfect dreams. Agnes practices. She becomes progressively preoccupied with learning how to dream, but is unable to achieve a satisfying result. She becomes depressed, insomniac, and finally takes a fatal dose of sleeping pills. Harold finds Agnes "with her tranquil features set in a slight, secret smile of triumph . . . ."


This haunting little vignette of a woman who doggedly attempts to acquire a skill which she believes is the essence of her husband's happiness, is suspended somewhere between pure fantasy and terror. Surely no one has only wonderful dreams as does Harold, so why does Agnes cling so desperately to the need to emulate him?

Because she has no self identity? Is it because she envies his ability to live, at least while asleep, in an enchanted world so appealing when compared to her own ordinary existence? Does Agnes request the sleeping pills with the intention of killing herself, or merely as another attempt to gain entrance into Harold's secret world?

Primary Source

The Atlantic Monthly, August, 1964


The Atlantic Monthly

Place Published

New York