Sylvia Plath – Quotes & Analysis

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Last updated: December 16, 2019

The first perspective presented is that of a younger nostalgic Hughes whose youthful impressions are recalled through memory. He uses hypothetical language of “.

..” and the assonance of ‘I’ in “…” which shows himself trying to precisely remember his first sightings of Plath, subtly suggesting that he was to be an unknowing target of Plath.

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“Maybe I noticed you. Maybe I weighed you up..

.” “It” “In” “Items” “I”

Hughes further establishes himself as the target in “…” which alludes to Hollywood Film stars, which carries connotations of deception and seduction, as does Hughes’ representation of Plath.

“Your Veronika Lake Bang”

Hughes’ deliberately uses the repetition of ‘…’ as a Biblical allusion to Eve as the temptress in the Garden of Eden which gives strength to his argument that he was innocent and seduced later by a more experienced Plath.
“Peach””It was the first fresh peach I had ever tasted. I could hardly believe how delicious”

The conflicting perspective of the Older Hughes is shown in his ironic voice and sentence fragments “…

” which reinforces his driving agenda. However, these conflicting perspectives warn the reader that appearances can be deceptive.

“Noted your long hair… not what it hid”

She uses confessional poetry such as ‘Daddy’ as an outlet for her emotions, highlighting the concerns of her time. She expresses this in the simile “.

..”, which foregrounds the submissive role of women to men by criticizing the confinement of her roles as a female and domestic life.

“I have lived like a foot for thirty years”

Her chosen form of poetry allows her to use poetic devices to create an atmosphere of repression. This is showcased in “.

..”, a metaphor whose repetition is suggestive of patriarchal abuse towards women, suggesting a desire for feminist values in society at large.

“Scraped flat by the roller of wars, wars, wars”

She uses a sustained metaphor of male dominance and warns of the consequences associated by using references with the terms ‘…’, ‘.

..’ and ‘…

‘. These are personal aspects of her life involving male oppression, which is juxtaposed as she then refers to the patriarch at large with historical references to WWII stating ‘…’, ‘.

..’ and ‘…’ reflecting the post-WWII context she, and Hughes wrote in.

“daddy” “black shoe” “fresco seal””a German” “Hiter” “war machine”

He begins the poem in a provocative and sarcastic tone as he addresses Plath’s accusations in ‘Daddy’ in the opening line “.

..” He uses this satire to de-value the emotions of Plath and present himself in good light.

“Your worship needed a God.”

Hughes implements “…

” shooting with “…” to express connotations of destruction. It is also part of a sustained metaphor of a bullet on a set trajectory, which is how Hughes is trying to present Plath; the death of her father was the pinnacle of her life where her emotional trauma would dictate the rest of her life without interruption. By doing so, Hughes continues to drive his agenda of exonerating his name because he claims Plath was self-destructing and Hughes couldn’t help for better or for worse.

“Smoking gun” “perfect trajectory”

However, the poem offers a shift in perspective signalled by the imperative tone of ‘..

.’ and ‘…

‘. This creates the allusion that Hughes is supportive, while the alliteration in ‘…’ and ‘..

.’ reinforces a positive light for Hughes.

“smash it into kindling” “get that shoulder””calmer” “considered”

The “Poets In Partnership” publicity photo from the 1961 BBC interview portrays how one perspective can be manipulated by multiple people at once.Plath’s gaze acts as a vector which draws the viewers’ attention towards Hughes, who is both physically and mentally separated from her. The axis of symmetry in the photo shows the juxtaposition of the two figures and also emphasises the black and white gap between them.
The photo of Plath and Hughes taken in Boston in 1958 that was published in The Journals of Sylvia Plath represents the way in which these people who provide the conflicting perspectives, represent themselves, which can tell us a lot about their attitudes which in turn, can help us to understand each of their perspectives.

Ted Hughes’s representation of himself in the photo fits in with the way he would choose to represent himself as suggested by his poems, that is, he is in an idle position with relaxed body language, knee up, that suggests little attempt to engage with Plath and that he is only concerned with his own affairs, similar to his innocent ‘does-nothing’ attitude presented in his poems.

Colour acts as another separation with Hughes being surrounded by black and Plath by white. This makes evident how form and its content can be a manipulated version of reality, and the composer, such as a photographer, can capture one moment in time which maybe a self-interested perspective of the situation.
The reading of the book is a symbol of wisdom and his cast down eyes represent privacy which suggests he is the smarter one and he minds his own business. Plath appears to be in a more unstable position with an awkwardly placed hand that is reminiscent of her inner insecurity. She appears to be relying on Hughes in juxtaposition to him taking little notice of her. She appears to be leaning into Hughes, looking over his shoulder which is representative of her reliance on him and the male figures in her life.

The representation of the ‘domestic containment’ of Plath provides a conflicting perspective as Plath is seen playing the dutiful role of a wife, giving him all the attention while he gives her very little. Her conventional dressing style and haircut also fit in with this representation as a ‘contained’ woman who could not fully express her deeply seated issues. When considering the domestic containment setting of the photo, the representation of Plath provides another buffer for anyone looking to use representations to present Hughes as the scapegoat for her suicide as Plath can be suggested to have been given little gender rights and roles by her husband.

Fulbright scholars shows the relationship of memory versus truth and truth limited by knowledge due to truth being distorted as time alters one’s perception of it. He shows a double perspective as the poem shows a mixture of his younger perspective in seeing Plath for the first time and his older wiser perspective with knowledge and experience about her.

Hughes displays uncertainty due to memory distorted by time.Rhetorical questions – “…

” “…”Incomplete sentences – “…” “Not your face”Allusions – “.

..” – ‘fake’ Hollywood actress and hidden scar symbolic of Plath’s personal depression issuesHypothetical language – repetition of “…

” – “…” accumulation of negative connotations with “…” – Hughes’ older perspective stepping in, judging Plath as insecure.Sensory details – “.

..” – emphasis on peach implies innocence as Plath was only a small detail in comparison

“Where was it, in the Strand?” “Were you among them?””A picture of that year’s intake of fulbright scholars.” “Not your face””Your Veronika Lake bang.

Not what it hid””maybe” “Maybe I Noticed you. Maybe I weighed you up.””Your exaggerated American grin for the cameras, the judges, the strangers, the frighteners””It was the first fresh peach I had ever tasted. I could hardly believe how delicious”

Hughes’ distorted perspective due to memory shows how unreliable his own perspective can be whilst at the same time he implies Plath to be an insecure facade of a woman. He then asserts his own innocence with the insignificance of his first sighting of Plath when contrasted to his lucid memory of the peach because if he is not focusing on her then he does not care enough to be making it up.
.

..

Plath’s poem “Daddy” comes into direct conflict with Hughes’ innocent perspective because she represents the patriarchal males in her life as being the oppressors in her life who cause her innocent suffering.

This poem primarily focuses on her father as the role model that failed her when he died and left her alone.

Simile – “.

..” – foreground submissive role of women to men, her father and Hughes in particular.

“I have lived like a foot for thirty years”

Metaphor of oppression “…” – repetition suggests violence of patriarchy. Subtly suggests feminist values.
“scraped flat by the roller of wars, wars, wars”

Plath’s poem represents an expression of outlet, highlighting through everyday experiences, the concerns of her time, she states “.

..” In this simile she foregrounds the submissive role of women to men, critiquing the domestic containment and her own gender role.

“I have lived like a foot for thirty years”

Continues with sense of repression “..

.” – metaphor repetition suggestive of violence inflicted by patriarchal powers

“scraped flat by the rollers of wars, wars, wars”

Lastly a sustained metaphor of male dominance is referenced within the terms ‘…’, ‘…

‘ and ‘…’.

Within sustained metaphor she also gives historical references to WWII, and Nazism stating ‘…’, ‘…’ and ‘.

..’ reflecting the post-WWII context she, and Hughes wrote in

“daddy”, “black shoe” “fresco seal””a German” “Hitler” “war machine”

These references of sustained metaphor however created a sense of victimization, and oppression by male figures, reflecting her challenging and conflicting perspective.

Allegorical style uses to > she moves from personal & autobiographical to universal ? she uses an allegorical style to address much larger question of struggle of women and finding sense of identity in patriarchal society.Emotive language – “Daddy, Daddy, you bastard, I’m through” – a defiant declaration of detachment from her father and the troublesome thoughts Plath has created around him – the wistful cry of a woman who wants to be free from the masculine influences in her life.

Plath had created her own image of her father which was the embodiment of her pain, frustration and guilt. She married Hughes’, a man symbolic of her father where she tried to solve these issues but actually ended up making them worse as her image of Hughes merged with that of her father and she announced “you bastard, I’m through”. Her eventual suicide shows how she could not sustain this sentiment and eventually fell as the victimised and emotionally abused woman by both male figures
.

..

The shot shows how truth is subjective and how poetry is a representation of psychological truth. In this poem Hughes suggests that Plath worshiped and idolised her dead father and that his death was the defining moment of her life. Hughes believed himself to be a victim of Plath’s decision to try and replace her father with him and then chose to discard him and move on.
..

.

Extended metaphor – bullet that is symbolic of the harmful person that Plath is to the people around her with her father being the crisis in her life as Hughes states that “…” pulled the trigger.Plath as the bullet that was “.

..”, that is she was beautiful, malleable, soft on the outside but with a hard core and a tip that was potentially destructive

“Daddy””gold-jacketed, solid silver, Nickel-tipped”

Today I am going to tell you about the important concept of representation when negotiating the truth behind conflicting perspectives concerning people and events. To understand this module you need to be able to ask yourselves the following question: Is there always an absolute truth behind people’s conflicting perspectives on people and events or is truth relative depending on the perspective that is presented? Representation can be used to portray the truth, portray only what someone wants for personal gain, or to portray a truth that appears true from one perspective but may not from another. Initial perspectives of Sylvia Plath’s and Ted Hughes’s relationship would suggest that Hughes was largely to blame for Plath’s suicide because of his ongoing affairs with other women but Hughes’s publication of ‘Birthday Letters’ provided the conflicting perspectives of a man who believed that he was the unsuspecting victim of Plath’s self destructive impulses that were brought upon by the death of her father and led to her psychologically challenged character taking out her resentment for significant male figures in her life, on him, and eventually committing suicide as an extension of these personal issues of hers.

Is this really what happened or is Ted Hughes just trying to shift the blame from himself? The best understanding of the truth can only be achieved by objectively considering both sides of conflicting perspectives and taking into account the extent to which representation is used for personal gain as opposed to presenting the truth.Ted Hughes’s very first poem in his famous suite of poems “Birthday Letters” explores the concepts of representation and conflicting perspectives concerning his relationship with Plath as well as the conflicting perspectives and representations created by memory and time. Hughes uses a deliberately distant and fragmented perspective of Plath in his attempt to vocalise his memory of her. His incomplete sentences “A picture of that year’s intake of Fulbright Scholars” and questions “Were you among them?” iterate this fragmentation in his memory of his first sighting of her. Hughes hypothesizes about this memory with “No doubt I scanned particularly the girls” and “Maybe I noticed you” and “Maybe I weighed you up”, evidently more sure about scanning the ‘girls’ than noticing Plath in particular.

Then he describes her in a more knowing manner suggesting that his contemporary perspective comes in, describing her “Veronica Lake bang. Not what it hid” referring to her as having the hair of a Hollywood actor who presents a facade of herself and alluding to the scar of her suicide attempt to highlight her self destructive issues. He describes her “exaggerated American grin for the cameras, the judges, the strangers, the frighteners”, using cumulative detail and negative connotations to propose that Plath using her appearance to represent herself in a way that hides her self destructive issues and her fear of being judged for them. Hughes emphasises the memory of the “fresh peach” in juxtaposition to his short description of Plath in order to subtly imply the innocence of his younger self who would eventually come to know these things about Plath that his older, wiser self is apparently aware of. These representations are used for the purpose of this biased perspective but to what degree does he represent the truth?”The Shot” is a poem that Hughes uses to represent Plath an even higher accusatory manner.

This poem uses the Extended metaphor of the bullet that is symbolic of the harmful person that Plath is to the people around her with her father being the crisis in her life as hughes states that “Daddy pulled the trigger” to let fly this “bullet” of a woman who was “gold-jacketed, solid silver, Nickel-tipped”, that is she was beautiful, malleable, soft on the outside with a hard core and a tip that was potentially destructive. The bullet, imitated her ricocheting “flightpath” through life glances at Plath’s “Alpha career”, referring to her academic distinctions and the people she left in her wake, who “more or less died on impact.” Hughes strongly implies that the target of her shot is him but merely as a Daddy-substitute for the personal issues that Plath wants to destroy. This is the representation that Hughes has created of Plath to explain the past events that would, if looked at simply, look to him as the culprit of her suicide, but with the publication of “Birthday Letters”, using these poems, Hughes has represented a conflicting perspective that led to much debate over a real explanation of events as critics had to use a strong understanding of representation to consider each representation of a perspective, their meaning and the personal agenda of composers, in their attempts to make sense of these complex past events and their explanations; and this is what you need to do in your attempt to make sense of conflicting perspectives when considering the integral concept of representation and how it is used.The photo of Plath and Hughes taken in Boston in 1958 that was published in The Journals of Sylvia Plath represents the way in which these people who provide the conflicting perspectives, represent themselves, which can tell us a lot about their attitudes which in turn, can help us to understand each of their perspectives. Ted Hughes’s representation of himself in the photo fits in with the way he would choose to represent himself as suggested by his poems, that is, he is in an idle position with relaxed body language, knee up, that suggests little attempt to engage with Plath and that he is only concerned with his own affairs, similar to his innocent ‘does-nothing’ attitude presented in his poems. The reading of the book is a symbol of wisdom and his cast down eyes represent privacy which suggests he is the smarter one and he minds his own business.

Plath appears to be in a more unstable position with an awkwardly placed hand that is reminiscent of her inner insecurity. She appears to be relying on Hughes in juxtaposition to him taking little notice of her. She appears to be leaning into Hughes, looking over his shoulder which is representative of her reliance on him and the male figures in her life. The representation of the ‘domestic containment’ of Plath provides a conflicting perspective as Plath is seen playing the dutiful role of a wife, giving him all the attention while he gives her very little. Her conventional dressing style and haircut also fit in with this representation as a ‘contained’ woman who could not fully express her deeply seated issues. When considering the domestic containment setting of the photo, the representation of Plath provides another buffer for anyone looking to use representations to present Hughes as the scapegoat for her suicide as Plath can be suggested to have been given little gender rights and roles by her husband. As you can see, to deconstruct the very complex nature of these conflicting perspectives you need to consider the way representation is used by composers to shape meaning and why they want to shape this meaning, by considering how they see other people and events from their own perspective.

Hughes presents a strong bias in his attempt to shift the blame of Plath’s suicide by representing himself in a sympathetic light and strongly highlighting Plath’s personal self-destructive issues, subtly alluding to them in “Fulbright Scholars”, and blatantly representing her as a dangerous, destructive person in “The Shot”. His being biased does not mean that he is wrong but it is always important to consider each perspective and the degree of truth behind them. The photo brings the initial perspective of Hughes being the culprit back into play as the domestic containment setting can easily suggest that Plath was ‘controlled’ by Hughes and therefore he could be partially responsible for events as Plath’s issues could have been building up under her role of ‘containment’ as his dutiful wife.

The truth is, students, that you cannot find the absolute truth of who to blame in events such as these but must consider the truth behind both perspectives to be true before you can negotiate the overall truths to come closer and closer to an overall conclusion concerning these people and events.

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