Fort St Band 6 Hughes

The medium of representation, choice of language, ideas and personal context in various texts influences perception and meaning through their reception by the reader. Man’s subjectivity to all ideas ensures the ever-present rise of conflicting ideas within memory which is presented within such texts like “Fulbright Scholars” and “The Minotaur” extracted from Ted Hughes’ poetic collection Birthday Letters.  The composer in turn presents, skewer and manipulates the duality of the past through their production. As such it is through the use of varying literary devices and language in the portrayal of conflicting perspectives, that composers are able to ensure that the readers adopts a certain desired viewpoint and meaning.

In “The Minotaur”, Hughes remembers his contribution to Plath’s downfall through his accusatory, reckless and provocative behaviour, but however contends this against his immense emotional investment, sympathy and care for her. Ultimately Hughes’ representation empowers his own perspective and positions the responder to perceive a husband which sympathized with Plath but was simply powerless to help her; in which the poetry style helped amplify empathy and intense pathos. Hughes’ initial adoption of responsibility can be seen through his sardonic and sarcastic tone in “’Marvellous!’ I shouted, ‘Go on, Smash it into kindling” a retort which provides anecdotal evidence of the catalysing effect Hughes had on Plath’s downfall. However like in Fulbright Scholars, the ambiguity of memory is reflected by Hughes’ opposing and conflicting perceptions portrayed by antithetically strong emotional investment in Plath. Hughes utilises a tri – colon listing; “And later, considered and calmer” to demonstrate a judiciously selected emphasis of his’ patience, consideration and understanding of Plath’s condition. *Ultimately Hughes positions the responder to adopt his own mindset. His repetition of second person in” Brought you to the … Grave of your risen father … your own corpse in it” adopts an accusatory tone and attempts to exonerate his role in her demise; conveying a Plath who was beyond help pushed to the edge by “Daddy” Otto Plath to the reader. Consequently, through the use of language and medium of presentation Hughes was able to solve a contention of ideas arisen in ambiguity of recollection and strongly persuade the readers to adopt his standpoint.

The conflicting perspectives of Hughes’ marriage in Angela Bennie’s War of Words similarly demonstrates how composers persuade responders into perceiving their own viewpoint. Initially, the utilisation of melodramatic hyperbolic language within metaphor; “Sylvia … extremely demanding and difficult … with one terrible bout of petulance after another” undermines and objectifies Plath to be a child throwing tantrums encouraging the responder to sympathize with Hughes’ pain of husband whose had enough. However, Bennie juxtaposes this with the emotive and opinionated depiction Plath’s need for Hughes; “the frustration led to … insecurity; [a] psychologically fragile Sylvia … betrayed… just when she needed him most” the sibilance of the sounds portrays fragility and mental weakness of Plath and a Hughes unwilling to help. Ultimately Bennie persuades the reader to align with her perspective of a Plath pushed to the edge by Hughes’ irresponsibility. Bennie’s description of Plath as martyr; “sacrificed on the altar of marriage” alludes to Hughes’ Red depicting an unstable woman catalysed by Hughes’ “betrayal and adultery”. Furthermore, Bennie draws further pathos from her personification; with Sylvia “who flirted dangerously with the game of death” furthermore undermining Hughes to be “the man who murdered a genius”.  As such through the medium of a feature article we witness how composers are able to present conflicting ideas be inevitably effectively sway perception to that of a desired standpoint.

  • Link to Plath’s Journal

Finally within Plath’s own Journal she recounts both her strong emotional attachment and faith in Ted Hughes and contrasts this against to his lack of commitment, betrayal of their marriage and adultery. Inevitably however she, like all other composers aligns the responder to perceive a flirtatious, uncaring and unsympathetic husband which would destroy her, a traitor of her trust. Plath’s initial depictions of her or enrooted emotional investment can be seen in her hyperbolic deification of Hughes “the wife.. has the most faith … lovingly nurtured blind faith and turns unquestionably to follow the course of the sun” portrays a Plath deeply invested in Hughes, willing to follow his every step. Antithetically Plath shows Hughes to be an unfaithful “black-horned grinning wolf… leaning into the eyes of adoration- not old adoration, but new fresh unadulterated.” The animalistic imagery here is used by Plath to portray a womanising Hughes feasting on her emotions and trust. Ultimately Plath identifies Hughes to be the source and catalyst to her downfall through a truncated fragmentation in her sentences; reflective of her violent fluctuations in emotions whilst depicting this her journal “irony: he has turned me from a … promiscuous human- being lover to a…. nasty, catty and malicious misanthrope” the hyperbolic reflection encouraging the reader to sympathise with Plath, the victim of their relations. As such, once again through the use of language, devices and textual form, the author is able to skewer perceptions about the past and align readers to a desired viewpoint.

Similarly in Fulbright Scholars which recounts Ted Hughes’ digression of his first impressions of Plath; a contention of his memory as both ambiguous and intense is explored. However in the same way Hughes empowers his own perspective through representation, production and language allows the audience to sympathize and perceive Hughes’ strong emotional investment and connection to in his late wife. Initially, Hughes’ inability to retrace and recount details of his past is depicted by a repetition of rhetorical questions “where was it, in the strand?”, “were you among them?”; creating the ambiguity of memory, asserting a vague recollection of Plath a lackluster first impression. On the contrary, details begin to emerge through the persona’s vivid and firm recollection. Hughes utilizes the same broken, fragmented truncation of his earlier verse, but supplying an adjective filled description that points to a vividness of memory. “Your long hair, loose waves… it would appear blonde… your grin… your exaggerated American grin…” The added descriptions is used by Hughes to supplement a level of intimacy to his tone, but also alludes to Plath’s hidden darker side which is a motif explored in The Minotaur. Inevitably, Hughes positions the reader to align with his own description of events. His ambiguous, “Then I forgot.  Yet I remember” is a paradox that is distinctly similar to his tonal shift and counter point in The Minotaur, through which the shift from “Smash it to kindling” – to – “And later, considered and calmer,” – demonstrates the ephiphanical change of perspectives of a proud, unconcerned Hughes to that of a caring, empathic and understanding one. The intensity of his emotion is embodied by a masterful allusion to T.S Eliot’s “Do I dare eat a peach?” from The Love Song Of J. Alfred Profruck. His assertion that, “It was the first fresh peach I had ever tasted. I could hardly believe how delicious.” connotes that he does recall her, and much like Eliot’s peach – she was the sum of his affections. Considering his context, his depiction of the complexities their relations are aimed to justify his behavior to those who blamed him for Plath’s death. As such, through the use of the ambiguous representation and a subsequent shift in tone and depictions, Hughes utilizes the poetic form to effectively sway and skewer readers to believe in his deep emotional connection to Plath.

In conclusion it can be seen through Ted Hughes’ portrayal of the poems; The Minotaur and Fulbright Scholars that language and medium of production can be used to effectively sway the audience past the duality of remembrance to a desired viewpoint and perspective.

Strong response with ample amount of linkage, cross referencing, and acknowledgement of the authorial manipulation of textual meaning through language techniques.

By L.L 2012


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