Jessica Chung How well a composer controls textual form and language features will affect the perspective

presented. Discuss. Ted Hughes anthology Birthday Letters is a skilful display of poeticism, offering his own personal mythology on his dysfunctional marriage with Sylvia Plath. Through the confessional poems Your Paris and Red , Hughes offers a conflicting perspective on Plath, persuading the reader that it was he who was the victim suffocating under Plath s mental instability and her manipulative, obsessive nature with the men in her life. Robert Olen Butler s Mr. Green also explores the complexities of conflicting perspectives within a relationship, focusing on the conflict between ancient, honourable but constricting values of women and the modern assertion of femininity. Plath s poem Tulips contrasts Hughes feelings of victimisation, voicing the anxieties of being a dutiful wife, mother and poet through an unnamed, hospitalised patient. Writing his poems as letter to Plath, Hughes indicates that, from the beginning, their outlooks were different, even antagonistic in Your Paris. Hughes emphasises their conflicting perspectives through the repetition of your Paris and my Paris , foreshadowing the impending doom of their already culturally conflicted relationship, as well as accusing Plath s Paris as excessively and immaturely American : Your Paris, I thought, was American.. you stepped, in a shatter of exclamations.. . He juxtaposes Plath s aestheticised city, your immaculate palette,/The thesaurus of your cries, with his infinitely more serious approach to Paris: My perspectives were veiled by what rose like methane from the reopened/Mass grave of Verdun. As the poem progresses, another conflict arises: the conflicting views on Plath by the young, uncomprehending and naive Hughes and the retrospective, sympathetic perspective of the older Hughes. Like the Maquis, Plath has an existence underground, your hide-out . This metaphor is constructed to highlight the duality of Plath and the conflict between her perceived counterfeit facade and her true self. Hughes comes to understand that what he experienced with her, traversing the plain paving of Paris with its odd, stray, historic bullet was, for Plath, a painful process of searching miles for the alleviation of pain, only relieved by the anaesthetic of her aesthetic sense. The conflict between perspectives within a relationship is also examined in Butler s short story Mr. Green, which presents an antiquated, patriarchal male perspective and a youthful, modern female perspective on female identity. The simplicity of the narrator s grandfather s use of language creates tension within the narrator and the reader, who remarks: "You are a girl... Only a son can oversee the worship of his ancestors." This, juxtaposed with the narrator s own directness: I wanted to protect my grandfather's soul, but it wasn't in my power. I was a girl, effectively generates a sentimental response to the narrator from the reader. The grandfather s parrot becomes a potent symbol of the traditional concept that men were superior to women, with the narrator noting that despite being bitten by Mr. Green, she still offered her arm out to him, as He had no choice he had to accept that he needed her despite her being female. Through the conflicting perspectives of the grandfather and the narrator, the reader reaches a greater understanding of the complexities of relationships, as the narrator stresses that there is no right or wrong in relationships, claiming that she does not bear him any anger. In hindsight, Hughes draws attention to the conflicting perspectives of Plath reflected through the young and unknowing Hughes and the retrospective perspective of the older, mature Hughes. The poet s own frustration and inner conflict is highlighted, as he realises that he had assigned conjectural, hopelessly wrong meanings to Plath s every word and action: it was a pained Plath with flayed skin, seeking an alleviation of her painful memories of her lover Sassoon that was walking beside him in Paris she was covering her true feelings with the façade of an excited tourist. Thus, Hughes effectively persuades the reader of his youthful ignorance of Plath s true, hidden agenda, stating his innocence over Plath s suicide through his use of emotive language and conflicting ideas, which underlined their troubled relationship. In Red , which concludes Birthday Letters, Hughes begins by indicating Plath s obsessive impulse: Red was your colour . To Plath, red is a symbol of vitality and passion, but Hughes association of red with wounding, earthen burial and memorials to a family s dead intentionally conflict with her interpretation of colour, appropriating red to her suffering, suicidal tendencies and fixation on her father s death: red/Was what you wrapped around you. Red symbolically shows Plath s manic, restless self, and through its symbolism, Hughes crafts his perspective as the victim: I felt it raw like the crisp gauze edges of a stiffening wound Hughes pain is represented through strong sensory imagery. Furthermore, he describes their red bedroom as a judgement chamber , a throbbing cell , evoking a claustrophobic atmosphere caused by Plath s obsession with her father through emotive words. Hyperbolic, cumulative language is used to reinforce Hughes sense of entrapment, as he continually refers to their house dominated with red walls as sheer blood-falls , like blood lobbing from a gash , and the heart s last gouts . He denies his role as the culprit of Plath s murder , using his fatalistic tone to show how helpless he was with Plath s mental condition: even from the start, she was catastrophic, arterial, doomed. This perspective is in conflict with pre-estabished beliefs that Plath was the victim. The third stanza, consisting of one line, emphasises that Plath s only way of escaping turmoil was to enter the poetic world: Only the bookshelves escaped into whiteness. Here, the whiteness refers to tranquillity and rationality, with Hughes remarking that Plath s contrasting poetic side was a redemptive character of hers.

But the jewel you lost was blue. Hughes emphasises the importance and ambiguities of interpreting and understanding perspectives in any event. the ghoul of redness. metaphorically associating her calm nature with a jewel. This links back to the earlier reference of the shut casket. filling the air with loud noise. evoking a sense of pathos and how her obsession with red has shrouded her blue and calm nature. her sense of calmness is disrupted by the tulips: I didn t want any flowers. the flowers become an overwhelming reminder of her husband and child s love. from San Francisco . displaying Hughes conflicting perspectives on Plath. I have never been so pure. tranquil postoperative state as idyllic. . She thinks of her husband and child as antagonists. in which she was enveloped in kingfisher blue silks. Plath establishes the woman s surreal. These conflicting portrayals of Plath map Hughes changed understanding of Plath through age. The character s yearning for tranquillity. with the colour blue. they hurt me . should have been her hue: it was a guardian. Hughes juxtaposes Plath s insanity. the bone-clinic whiteness. thoughtful. she decides. He contemplates that the pacific colour.In contrast to Hughes depiction of Plath as an uncontrollable. Plath seems to imply that being the ideal wife and mother to Hughes and her children has become too much: she is stifled. The personification of the tulips and correspondence to her wound reinforces the obligations that the character must perform as an attentive wife and mother the delivery of the tulips implies the suffocation and loss of self that the patient suffers. Plath creates a persona of calmness in her poem Tulips. This loss of a centre of stability has dragged her to death. blue. By exposing conflicting perspectives on Plath and comparing his naive. Hughes evokes a sense of remorse and melancholy over the loss of Sylvia at the end of the poem. which burdens her: their redness talks to my wound. content Plath with the pit of red . Their smiles in the photos are hooks that want to bring her back to a normal life. She accuses the tulips of being too red. inexperienced self with his older. momentarily at least. more mature self. He then juxtaposes this quiet. where Plath hid from her mental illness. quiet voice in Tulips . manic person. she wants to remain in hospital: I am a nun now. Hughes comments on Plath s pregnancy. Thus. Here. Hughes persuasively presents his conflicting perspective on Plath and their relationship through a range of poetic techniques. privacy and sure sense of self is overridden by the vivid tulips which eat her air. Echoing Plath s calm. In this poem.

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