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Ted Hughes Birthday Letters Anthology

1309 words - 6 pages

People construct their own perspectives on events, personalities, idea or situations, shaped by their own experiences and memories. Ted Hughes’ anthology Birthday Letters is his perspective about the events between himself and Sylvia Plath and their life together. He published it in attempt to alter ones perspectives on Hughes’ influence in Plath’s suicide and providing emotional insight into their lives, effectively giving him the final say in the events of their relationship. “Fulbright Scholars”, “Sam” and “Your Paris”, three poems within Birthday Letters, represent conflicting perspectives of events in their lives, as well as their contrasting personalities. Through techniques such as ...view middle of the document...

“Fulbright Scholars” is the first poem in the anthology and, with the use of personal pronouns: ‘were you among them?’ and first person: ‘I noticed it’, is written as an address to Plath, structured as a personal letter. It chronicles Hughes’ first sighting of Plath as he struggles to recall the details of this event that happened forty years prior, impeded by age and time. The poetic is in free verse, allowing Hughes to produce a steady flow of memories without pauses in his recollection. Rhetorical questions, “Where was it, in the strand?” and the repetition of ‘maybe’: ‘Maybe I noticed you. Maybe I weighed you up”, create a tone of uncertainty in the poems has Hughes is constantly questioning his memory, forever undecided of what actually happened.
“Fulbright Scholars” contains a variety of conclusive details, which Hughes is certain occurred, and a succession of speculations and presumptions. He unquestionably recalls, ‘I studied [the photograph of the scholars]… wondering/ Which of them I might meet. I remember that thought. Not your face”. He can vividly remember examining the photograph though he cannot recollect seeing Plath’s face within it. However, four lines later he states, “Noted your long hair, loose waves – Your Veronica Lake bang” indicating he did indeed notice her amongst the other scholars; conflicting with his earlier lines. His perspective on the event is shaped by newfound knowledge, experience and hindsight gained from their six year marriage. A further conflict is displayed within line nineteen where Hughes notes that, he “forgot. Yet [he] remember[ed] the picture” – his memory had failed him.
“The Shot”, similar to “Fulbright Scholars”, exhibits how someone’s perception of another is altered by knowledge and experience. The title is an extended metaphor for Plath, likening her to a bullet shot from a gun and metaphorically illustrating how she ‘ricocheted’ through life, oblivious to anyone she hit along the way. Again, with the use of personal pronoun, Hughes is addressing Plath throughout the poem, “You were undeflected. You were gold jacketed, solid silver, nickel-tipped”.
With his vivid and abundant use of visual imagery, “the fury/ Of a high-velocity bullet” and “rifling groove”, Hughes establishes a perspective of a deadly and powerful Plath. The poem adopts a misogynistic tone, criticising her constant adoration of any man she could, “deif[ying them] by [her] infatuation” until they escaped her possessive ways. A shift in the tone of the poem is evident in the lines, “But inside your sob-sodden Kleenex and your Saturday night panics”, as he is now discussing the fragility of Plath’s psyche, largely attributed by her father’s death; she isn’t such a terrorist after all. Hughes goes on to suggest that her uncontainable nature also led to her suicide attempt, leaving a “cheek-scar/ Where [she] seemed to have side-swiped concrete”.
Just as Hughes commented on his obliviousness to Plath’s inner demons when he...

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