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Sylvia Plath vs Ted Hughes

Sylvia Plath’s poem, ‘Whiteness I Remember’, and Ted Hughes’s poem, ‘Sam’, are two poems which describe an experience of Plath’s when she was a student at Cambridge. She was out on her first ride when the horse she had hired the normally-placid Sam, bolted. Although Ted Hughes’s is describing the experience he uses insinuations throughout the poem to let out his perception of his marriage with Sylvia Plath, hence infuriating, the conflict in perspective between the two poems.

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The ideas of ‘conflicting perspective’ suggest that the composers of the texts present an even-handed, unbiased attitude to the events, personalities or situations represented. Conflicting perspectives explore the subjective truth of the individual, which are shaped by the construction of a text by a biased composer. Each person’s version of the truth in events, personalities and situations differs, by viewing separate perspectives an understanding of the motives and purpose of the composer is formed. Sam’ is Hughes retrospective interpretation of an event in Plath’s life before she met him and which she had represented in the poem ‘Whiteness I remember’. Hughes’ poem itself contains what can be interpreted as conflicting perspectives of her personality and when read in conjunction with Whiteness I remember reveals interesting similarities and differences. Hughes seems to accept Plath’s account of the event ‘I can live Your incredulity, your certainty that this was it’ and he does adhere closely to her description of her experiences during the horse’s headlong flight to the stable.

However, the repetition of ‘You lost your stirrups’, ‘You lost your reins, you lost your seat’, combine to depict Plath as a terrified victim unable to control or take responsibility for the consequences of her own actions. In contrast Plath’s poem suggests she was exhilarated by the speed and danger and identified with what she represents as the horses’ rebellion against the ‘humdrum’ of suburbia.

In contrast Hughes accuses her of glamorising her loss of control. ‘It was grab his neck and adore him or free fall’. Once again the reader is arguably left with the impression that Hughes is still identifying with Sam and suggesting there are parallels between her relationship with him and the horse. As the stanza continues Hughes builds the momentum and pace with a series of commas as punctuation and an enjambment.

The choice of verb in ‘You slewed under his neck, an upside down jockey with nothing between you and the cataract of macadam’ creates an image of Plath unable to maintain a balance and in imminent danger of being smashed into the road by the horses hooves at high speed. The alliteration and the metaphor of the ‘horribly hard swift river’ in full flood combine with the’ propeller terror of his front legs’ and the onomatopoeia of ‘clangour of the iron shoes’ to transform the horse into an engine of destruction.