Conflicting Perspectives - Hughes Essay

Together the works of Ted Hughes, Christine Jeffs and J. D Salinger combine to enhance an understanding of the concept of conflicting perspectives. The audience can see that there is a great deal of ubiquity in relation to Conflicting Perspectives. Ted Hughes’ poetry gives his account of a tumultuous part of his life whilst Christine Jeff’s film portrays a different point of view than that given by Hughes’. It is through looking at Salinger’s novel, that the role of the authorial voice in contrast to the protagonists can create a conflicting perspective between the protagonist and the audience.

All these texts explore the concept of one person’s ‘truth’ in relation to another’s. The collection of poems constituting Birthday letters was created by Ted Hughes over a twenty plus year period following the suicide of his early wife Sylvia Plath. The single, internal perspective offered by Hughes’ poetry was always brand to be contentious. Ted Hughes poem, ‘The Shot’, gives his detailed perspective on Plath’s personality and her life in general. Hughes imposes the idea that Sylvia’s father was responsible for her instability through use of personification, “when his death touched the trigger. Hughes talks of how Plath’s paranoid state caused destruction to the people she loved and whom loved her. Through the use of emotive language such as, ‘ricocheted,’ and, ‘the fury of a high intensity bullet,’ he describes Plath’s frenzied and insecure nature. Hughes’ gives his point of view of his relationship and marriage with Plath through his poems, ‘The Minotaur,’ and ‘Sam. ’ Through the use of animal imagery, Hughes conveys his belief that Plath was to blame for the marriage break up, ‘You strangled me, one giddy moment… nder my feet to trip me. ” (Sam). Hughes’ feels that it was Sylvia’s fragility, outbursts of anger, “Mahogany table top you smashed,” (Minotaur) and paranoia that destroyed the marriage. By removing himself from the situation through the use of personal pronouns such as, ’you,’ and,’ your,’ he ensures that he is not the one to be blame for the marriage failure, “that unravelled your marriage. ” As poetry is a condensed form of literature Hughes’ is able to convey two perspectives within the one poem. Your Paris,’ provides an example of a poem in which Hughes realises that there can be more than one point of view regarding a situation. At the beginning of the poem, Ted talks about how he thought Plath loved Paris from the, ‘les toits,’ to the ‘streets after streets of impressionist paintings. ’ However, after her death and through further reading of her poetry, Hughes point of view changes as he realises that Plath actually despised Paris. He highlights Plath’s mental pain through the use of metaphors and emotive vocabulary, ‘what walked beside me was flayed… incing to agonies. ’ New Zealand born director, Christine Jeffs, produced the 2002 film Sylvia after becoming interested in the poet’s history. Unlike Hughes, Jeffs had no direct relationship with Sylvia and has based the film’s perspective on extensive research including interviews and biographies. Thus, the films external perspective offers a point of view which is vastly different from that of Hughes’ poetry. The soundtrack of Sylvia works to offer a different perspective from that contained in Hughes’ poem ‘The Shot. At the beginning of the film, the diagetic music is a soft, flowing orchestral piece, which highlights her calm, steady frame of mind. However, towards the end of the film after Plath has met Hughes the orchestral music is violently interrupted by the irregular piano beat which reflects Plath’s manic life. It infers that Plath became unsteady and paranoid as a result of Hughes’ infidelity. Camera angles and editing have also been used to show Hughes’ as being the main cause of Plath’s paranoia and the reason for the downfall of the marriage.

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The low angle shots used on Hughes’ in contrast with the high angle shots used on Plath depict Hughes as being controlling and dominating in relation to Plath who is made to look innocent, vulnerable and helpless. The editing of the film in relation to the quick flickering back and forth between Hughes’ and Plath during a fight shows the different facial emotions of each juxtaposed with one another. Again, Hughes’ looks angry, in control and powerful, whereas Sylvia looks scared, dominated and vulnerable.

Hughes’ negative impact on Sylvia is also represented through the use of makeup and costume. At the beginning of the film Plath wears bright colours such as red and green and her makeup is dewy, tanned and fresh. This gives the character of Plath a sense of youth, vibrancy and joy. Conversely, at the end of the film after her many arguments with Hughes’ Plath wears greys and blacks and her makeup becomes pale, dull and lifeless. This provides a striking contrast to the Sylvia shown earlier in the film. Gradually, Jeffs makes the character appear aged, unhappy and lacking animation.

In difference from the perspective offered by Hughes in ‘Sam,’ in that Plath was very fast to give up on their marriage, Sylvia gives a different point of view. Through the use of makeup, Jeffs portrays to the audience that Plath made every attempt to salvage the dying marriage. In one scene Plath can be seen wearing bright, vibrant makeup once again and her hair has been died back to blonde. This shows her efforts to impress Hughes’ and save their marriage. J. D Salinger’s work The Catcher in the Rye was produced in the early 1950’s, and became an immediate success due to its depiction of adolescent alienation and loss of innocence.

The text deals with one perspective from without and one from within. The point of view the author offers the reader, conflicts with the protagonist’s view of himself. Unlike other texts, in The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger issues an implicit invitation to question Holden’s stories and versions of events through the contrast of dialogue and actions and relationships. Holden makes himself out to be a terrific womaniser, with tonnes of experience through the use of his narration, “I started giving the three witches at the next table the eye again.

I just gave all three of them this very cool glance and all. ” However it is through reading the novel and analysing his actions and relationships the reader can see that he isn’t good with women, but altogether miserable, “I could hardly stop myself from giving her a sort of kiss on her dopey head… she got sore when I did it though. ” The first person narration used in Catcher, gives the protagonists perspective on situations regardless of truth. There is an apparent role of and authorial voice in shaping perspective.

Salinger makes us very aware of the gap between one characters truth and what others perceive the truth to be. Holden is classified as an unreliable narrator and hence what he says about things can not usually be trusted. He also admits himself to be a liar, “I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. ” Therefore how can the audience tell if things such as, “The more expensive a school is the more crooks it has,” are true or not? Truth in catcher leads the audience to interpret things on their own based on other elements of the novel.

Truth in this case leads to conflicting perspectives of the audience and the protagonist. When examined together, the work of Hughes, Jeffs and Salinger provide an insightful study of the concept of conflicting perspectives. In Birthday Letters the representation of a participant’s thoughts and feelings are the overriding perspective. Hughes’ gives a moving firsthand account of his journey during a turbulent period of his life. Christine Jeffs has sought, via the film Sylvia, to give an account of both the external and internal life of Sylvia Plath.

Finally Salinger uses The Catcher in the Rye to ostensibly tell a story from a character’s point of view while also making a different perspective, that of the authorial voice heard. From these different works it becomes clear that the concept of conflicting perspectives is inextricably imbedded in texts, whether this was the intention of the creator of not. The possibility of one real truth in any situation begins to look impossible. From consideration of these texts and the issue of conflicting perspectives we learn that what one person sees as truth can easily be seen as a misrepresentation from another’s point of view.


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