What is your understanding of “ truth” after your study of conflicting perspectives and their representation? The notion of truth being a defined reasoning and represented as a one sided argument is unmistakably how most audiences visualize it. The concept cannot be interpreted in such close mindedness, as to tell the truth is to speak what appears “truthful” to “you”. Conflicting perspectives arise when the visualization of how feasible or veracious something is differs between individuals.
The controversy surrounding Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, contentious poets of the twenty first century portray their own reality through their semi-confessional poetry. Sylvia Plath frequently extends her cereal obsession with her dead father as well as committing a certain bias declaration about past events to her poetry. If an audience were to read just Plath’s semi-autobiographical work the bell jar or even her late published work, Ariel they would quickly succumb to the confessional ‘finger pointing’ at Hughes and her father that she is notoriously regarded for.
Hughes’ work, in contrast often speaks of the good times in their passionate relationship enticing less cynicism and promoting his protagonist-like character. Hughes’ “Fulbright Scholars”, for example has a much lighter tone with a series of guesses and faded recollection of enjoyable excitement confided in his first meeting with Plath. Condescending to Plath’s degenerative works like “the rabbit catcher” or “the jailer”, freckled with darkness and hatred.
Without implication of Hughes’ goodness, he frequently took an objective stance in his work; “the minotaur” and “Sam” can both be interpreted as Hughes talking himself out of situation by exaggerating his veracity almost to a level of ‘whininess’. Reading about the two scholars, one would be lead to believe that they communicated to each other more through their poetry, expressing deeper emotions lyrically then they did conversely. The often strongly differing views on the widely discussed events of their lives entail to generate the continued and unmistakable conflict in perspectives.
Hughes’ Birthday Letters is a compilation of 35 years worth of silence regarding his marriage to Sylvia Plath. He begins with “Fulbright Scholars”, by exemplifying the transience of recollection through his continuous use of rhetorical question “ where was it, in the strand? ” and “were you among them? ”. This immediate display of flaw of Hughes’ seems like a peculiar attitude to begin his assemblage with as it enthrals the audience to doubt his perspective as poor remembrance could illustrate his misconception about their relationship.
Although Plath’s work may not recollect key events in their past existence, structurally her poetry is much more direct and precise in description of action, or action used allegorically to portray feeling. “Fulbright Scholars” stems a reminiscent, joyous mood that contextually feels out of place, entitles just as much conflict as hostile accusations. Hughes articulates playful romance and metaphorical depiction of his first real love “It was the first fresh peach I had ever tasted”, which to the audience is an agreeably easily relatable truth.
Phrases like “extravagant, like torture” or “the constriction killing me also” can be found in Plath’s “the Rabbit Catcher”, where any sense of self-restriction she once possessed seems void, ruthlessly blaming Hughes among other things. The strongly foregone conclusion of Plath’s confessional self-expression may at first seem overpoweringly decisive but its importance is in the passion with which the text was written, it’s hard to dismiss her merciless fervour as a lie. Twenty minutes late for baby-minding” does not seem like justification to unleash ferocious wrath upon a mahogany table. Nor does it seem quaint to bring about Hughes Self Congratulation. Neither does it seem fair for Hughes to begin to distance himself from his children just because it does not suit his womanising lifestyle. “Left your children echoing, Like tunnels in a labyrinth”. And yet all of that seems to occur in Hughes’ “The Minotaur”. Attempting to purge him self of all blame, supporting his own twisted reality, this particular poem seems only to deny him that privilege.
Taunting and provoking Plath, Hughes puts himself up on a pedestal of contentment. Throughout The Birthday Letters Hughes renders Plath’s death inexorable, claiming to be a bystander unable to prevent her attraction to the grave. A minotaur, in Greek mythology is a half man half bull creature that feeds on the flesh it finds within its labyrinth. Hughes metaphorically describes Plath’s slipping into madness as entering a labyrinth, implying that she would never get out and that ‘death’ was looming on her from around every corner.
The poets use of sparse punctuality and enjambment make the poem fast paced and audibly interesting while Hughes uses sharp wit and sarcasm to tie Plath’s fury to her unconventional personality and not his tardiness. The final stanza places strong emphasis on use of personal pronoun “your mother”, “your risen father” and “your own corpse” show an accusatory, forceful tone. The juxtaposition of “Grave of your risen father” seems to foreshadow Plath’s own unavoidable downfall. Colours signify shift in moods, feelings and beliefs. White denotes purity, humility and marriage. Blue conveys trust, tranquillity and harmony.
Red represents all things intense and passionate. It is no surprise then as to why Hughes titled one of his works after this symbolism. “Red” takes several shifts in mood and tones implying that Hughes himself had changing perspectives on situations and how they affected him. The accentuation of Plath’s obsession with red illustrate a world consuming passion caging and hiding her “But red was what you wrapped around you’. Wistfully fanatical, it was death. Her Mind coaxed in red, Plath splashed the colour wherever she could “when you had your way finally Our room was red”.
Hughes’ uses this strong emotive imagery to place the blame on Otto Plath. This is where further divergence occurs as red is also the colour of sexuality. Hughes is known for his shifting affection and to explore the concept of colour symbolism so deeply would lead the audience to assume that he does not wish to be judged as a womaniser but merely as a palette visionary. During the procession of the poem, the ideal of red begins to warp and is often replaced by the word ‘blood’ or is represented as ‘roses’. This floral imagery is interesting in comparison to the “poppies thin and wrinkle frail” alluded to 3rd stanza.
The assonance combined with the principle that poppies appear fragile and weak allegorically portray Plath’s sometimes delicate character or her silver lining “As the skin on blood”. Hughes final statement that “the jewel you lost was blue” is a definitive moment where the audience apprehend Hughes acceptance that Plath had drowned “in the pit of red” and that blue, her one hope had drowned with her. Hughes and Plath travelled to France soon after being married, France was a land torn by war, steeply recovering. Hughes was infatuated with the ingering scars of conflict while Plath seemed preoccupied with the superficial “American” view of the iconic art and culture capital of the world. “your Paris” is flooded with contextually opposing personal pronouns, furthering the argument motif of The Birthday Letters. “Under the chestnut shades of Hemmingway”, “street after street, of impressionist paintings”, Hughes is assured that Plath cannot look beneath the surface, his snide remarks “I kept my Paris from you” obligate her oblivion to anything more than the clearly-evident.
Characterised by the aftermath of world war 2, Hughes saw not only the rummaged buildings but appreciated the mental scarring still loitering in the air and on the faces of those around him. “I was a ghostwatcher”, He declares as if his vision is skewed by the presence of death, contrasting with the domination of Plath’s subconscious by her dead father. Hughes belittles her judgment with mockingly sarcastic references to Plath’s exuberant “highs” she frequently exhibited. Hughes uses extended metaphor to develop contrast of perspective.
Portraying himself as a guard dog, who simply “yawned and dozed” in mild boredom as he watched Plath calm herself down from one of the pre-mentioned ‘ecstasies’. Numerously, demeaning allusion of Plath’s speech is made, ostensibly as “Your Paris” unfolds it slips into hysterical babbling beginning with a “shatter of exclamations” continuing to “your lingo” and finally progressing into “gushy burblings”. The Audience would perceive Plath’s perception to be slowly diminishing as she drowns in her own excitement.
It is not humanly wrong to admire France for its culture and yet Hughes has trouble interpreting her perspective, it does not make him angry as much as disgusted to observe someone he feels so deeply for, to be so vividly promiscuous. Conflicting perception occurs when an event is interpreted in different ways. “Sam” for example is a generalisation of an actual event, morphed to represent another. Former to meeting Hughes, Plath was involved in a near-death horse riding incident upon a horse named Sam. Therefore Hughes’ knowledge of the actual event comes to him second hand.
The Poem itself is an allegory for Plath and Hughes’ relationship, summarised in the last stanza. “how did you cling on? Baby monkey”, Hughes doubts her ability to survive in general using metaphors to display her immature grasp on reality, but questions why her ability falters when it is he who “started home at a gallop”. In light of Plath’s journal entries, her hatred for Hughes twists and deforms into detestation and abhorrence, allowing for the assumption that in death, Plath would finally ‘get back’ at her husband for the dread he put her through.
The example of assonance “dangling anguish” encapsulates the poems manic delirium, as Plath goes off the rails trying to drag Hughes down with her. As the Poem progresses the tone warps from reminiscent to curiosity to respite. Hughes’ use of Strongly emotive language like “propeller terrors” and “plunging neck” present the audience with a petrified, out of control themed scenario. The truth lies in Hughes interpretation of Plath’s death and how he proceeded to perceive her suicide in relation to him. The conflicting perspectives since her death have since been within Hughes himself.
It takes less then a second for a bullet to fire out of a gun and pierce someone’s skin and prove fatal. In Sylvia Plath’s case, it took 30 years for her to misfire. “The Shot” is an extended metaphor for Plath’s life, embodying her as a perfectly aimed bullet juxtaposing her uncontrollable personality with the accuracy of a bullet. The interesting contrast formed using the analogy of her godly sanctioned father sees the audience believe Plath to have succumbed to some sort of divine fate out of her (and Hughes) control.
In the last Stanza Hughes seems mildly requited and almost accepting of the fact that he was only in the way of her search for something to replace her father “Or that you had gone clean through me”. Repetition is used to concede Hughes’ lower priority of unimportance “a god seeker, a god finder”, “under your hair done this way and done that way”. “The Shot” focuses on the conflict arising between her father’s personality and the relationship between Hughes and Plath, demonstrating that often the truth is unattainable
One of the most important connotations of conflicting perspectives is that Ted Hughes has the final say. He is the one left in power with the ability to say anything without rebuff, essentially in life, Hughes proved the victor of the conflict. No superficial view of any country or misconceptions of past memories deny Hughes the advantage of being the successor. Although Hughes lived on, he gained nothing, as still he continued to refuse discussing Plath’s death and failed to apologise for cheating on Plath with another married woman.
But often behind the news, conspiracies, mysteries and cover-ups that inundate reader’s minds nothing remains. The truth gets built upon the media and without the media the truth is plain and simple. Hughes and Plath’s story was extraordinary by all means but was their relationship anything more than ordinary? Partners cheat on each other all the time, all over the world people are committing suicide, it’s a sad truth. But that’s exactly all it is… without the limelight on the ‘controversial’ relationships events, they were nothing more then in actuality to the audience, ‘the truth’.