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Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath

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The main difference between Plath’s and Hughes’ poetry, is that Plath writes about her own experiences. Whereas Hughes experience is second hand, he writes about his own pain though Plath’s experiences. In the poem Daddy, Plath is talking about her childhood. She is writing as she remembers it. On the other hand the way Hughes writes Tender place is through Plath’s experience of electrocution. The Poem ‘Daddy’ is set in Sylvia’s childhood. It is a very violent and conflicted poem. She is talking about how horrible her father is and he is characterized as a Nazi, devil and vampire. It is very odd that she calls her father ‘Daddy’ since it is a very fond name, and she seems to hate him. This poem sounds very dark and disturbing, it is like a nursery, and it’s playful in a violent way. It is very rhythmic and over-the-top; this makes the violence even creepier. You could say it’s a reminder of the nursery rhymes her father sung to her. The playfulness of the sounds paired with the violence show Sylvia’s internal struggle between loving and hating her deceased father. Now looking at Ted Hughes poem ‘Tender place’ he mentions Sylvia’s father briefly, ’You your Daddy’s leg.’ I first thought that it was quite a nice sentence.

Then I re-read it and it seems like Plath is heading for the same fate as her father. It seems a little peculiar that Hughes only mentioned Sylvia’s father ones, since it was known that she got depressed after her father died. Also the way he uses the word ‘Daddy’ as well, it a little odd. It is a very fond word for someone who scarred Sylvia’s life. Back to the nursery rhyme, it mentions living in a black shoe (There was an old women who lived in a shoe). Throughout the poem we go through a lot of different settings, there’s the more realistic settings and the more mystical settings. She talks about the Jewish and how she can relate to them, making her problems seem as important as they are. Sylvia pains Ted Hughes out to be like her father, they are both compared to vampires. You could think of this as a way of having a father figure, it is a bit perverse. Now thinking about the whole nursery structure, and how ‘Daddy’ is not set out like a normal poem. Then looking at Hughes’ and seeing how different each poet is, sort of makes you think about how different both Hughes and Plath are as individuals.

Hughes Poem ‘Tender Place’ is very collected and thought out, whereas Sylvia’s is quite childlike and violent. Hughes poem is about Sylvia’s suffering and pain and how it has left her damaged. Whereas ‘Daddy’ is about how her father made her feel, and how evil he was. The abstinence ‘oo’ sound is very over powering. Normally you would think of it as quite a soothing sound, especially in a nursery rhyme. Yet in this particular poem, it is quite suffocating. This poem is very much to do with sound, as well as meaning. Repetition and rhymes can be found throughout. There is no specific rhyme scheme in this poem. Plath used iambic verses, (the line is patterned by unstressed syllables followed by stressed syllables) for example: you do not do, you do not do. Iambic pops up throughout the poem (not regular) making it lilting and rhythmic (Not over-the-top). Now if you look at Ted Hughes ‘Tender Place’ you will see that he doesn’t use abstinence sounds that much. Though he does use a lot of words that start with ‘B’, like Bomb-flash, bleached, burning and Bolt-hole.

All these words are very hard hitting, and I believe that’s why Ted Hughes chose them. This Poem is showing how hard Sylvia’s life was. Each word is repulsive, just like what Sylvia had to go through. Death and Co. is a very confusing poem to decipher. You can see that Sylvia has post natal depression, the way she writes this poem makes it obvious. She sees herself as meat (linked with the vampire imagery that has ben used previously in her poems), as a victim of sort. The way she mentions the dead bell, makes you think that it was meant for her. I think after having her second child, she finally realizes what a cheat and a liar her husband is. This makes her even more depressed. When she says ‘The babies look in their hospital Icebox,’ I think she uses ‘hospital icebox’ as a metaphor for the little cribs they place babies in after they are born. They are actually warm, but look like little iceboxes to Sylvia. When she says ‘Death-gowns,’ it makes you remember that this poem is in fact about death.

She implies that Ted is two faced, on one side he is cooing and pleasing and the other side unpleasant and lying. He doesn’t do things like he normally does, like smile or smoke. Now looking at ‘The blue flannel suit’ by Ted Hughes it shows that Ted loved Sylvia, and he misses her dearly. Looking at how Sylvia embraces death, and how much happier she is when she writes about it, is completely different to the way Ted views death. He sees it as a horrible ordeal, he misses her terribly. The way Hughes writes about ‘The blue flannel suit’ is sort of like he is describing her life, by using this particular metaphor. ‘The strange dummy stiffness, the misery,’ it’s a very uncomfortable image. Like Sylvia was uncomfortable with her own life. Hughes saw Sylvia as a well educated women, she had her whole life a head of her. He remembers the first time he saw Sylvia, and how uncomfortable she looked in her surrounding and in herself. The imagery of this poem is suggestive of someone who is unsure of whether they are ready for death or not. Though death appears to be wonderful and glittering she is not in fact deaths yet, this indicates that she craves death but is still unsure if she is ready to end her life.

There is a strong sense of isolation in this poem as the narrator appears removed from the two vultures (Hughes and her father) which regard her and though they are together, united against her, it is made clear that there are also great differences between them. One of them just ‘wants to be loved’. The repetition of ‘the dead bell’ gives a sense of impending doom and the fact that the last line indicates that ‘somebody’s done for.’ Which is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly, as the narrator appears to know that even if it is not her who is going to die; it is not long until it will be. She uses onomatapia, the clap sound. She uses repetition of ‘tells’ quite violently I think. the use of B and S words make it sound horrible.

The use of the ‘S’ sound makes it seem like he is close to tears over Plath’s death. The poem itself is quite unnerving, by reading the words it sounds like Hughes is against Plath. Then you look a little deeper and you see he is just stating a fact. When he writes ‘Of the properties you hoped to ease into, And horror in it.’ I think he is saying that her life is terrible and horrific. In both poems Plath is suffering. In ‘Death and Co.’ she is suffering from depression and in ‘The blue flannel suit’ Hughes has portrayed her as suffering from other judgment. Each poem is very different from one another, the structure, format and story. Yet you can see they are also very similar, they all have one thing that links them together, suffering. In each poem there is suffering, it is either really obvious like ‘The blue Flannel suit’ or quite hard to detect like ‘Death and Co.’ The poets have very different styles of portraying the similar thing.

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