The metaphor first came to life in Plath’s book The Bell Jar, when her 19-year-old protagonist, Esther Greenwood, is feeling overwhelmed about the future and wondering whether she would ever live up to her own expectations.
Watch: Maggie Dent on the mental load. Post continues below.
Looking out onto the metaphorical tree of life, Esther ponders, “I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
Despite the book turning 60 years old this year, the analogy resonates more than ever – especially amongst Gen Z women. The hashtag #figtree has 26 million views on TikTok, with creators posting about their life's “figs”, using it as a metaphor for their fear of picking the wrong career or life path.
Creator Steph Bohrer recently posted a video to the platform, saying that while she “loves her life”, she sometimes thinks about the other things she “would really love to be doing at the same time”.