Literary Analysis: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes

What connections have you found between the ways in which Plate and Hughes write about the relationship between the individual and nature? Sylvia Plate and Ted Hughes both discuss the relationship between the individual and nature in their poetry. Withering heights’ and ‘Spinster’ by Sylvia Plate discuss the relationship between the individual and nature in very different ways but both have similarities and differences with the Ted Hughes poems, Wind’ and ‘Emily Bronze’.

In the poem Withering Heights, Sylvia Plate expresses her turbulent relationship with the Yorkshire moors where she was ‘mailed into space’ during her marriage to Ted Hughes. Plate writes about her ‘unstable’ relationship with nature as she describes the horizons as tilted and disparate’. This negative description of a generally beautiful and peaceful setting makes the situation seem difficult and inverted as if the narrator is expected to be comfortable in a new place and feels pressure to appear as if they are, despite their real feelings.

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This describes a strained allegations between the narrator and nature as neither is as it should be which prevents both from being appreciated fully by the other. Describing the setting tilted’ makes it appear unusual and out of place which is how the narrator appears to feel about nature as if it would be beautiful from a different angle.

Plate uses imagery of arrival at a house as the narrator arrives at Wheel ruts’ like a drive in a similar way to Hughes to indicate the narrators insecure and unsure relationship with nature as the ‘lintel and sill have unhinged themselves’ as if even the house can’t make the orator feel secure in the setting, Hughes also describes an unstable relationship with nature in a similar way in his poem, Wind’ where his use of negative, strong descriptions of usually beautiful or peaceful parts of nature such as ‘hills’ and Woods’ are described with strong onomatopoeia’s like ‘crashing and ‘booming’ to compare his relationship with nature with a ship during a storm which struggles to make the narrator feel secure as the Window tremble(s) to come in’. Sylvia Plate also describes the oppressive relationship the narrator has with nature as everything is bending in one direction’ as if the relationship the narrator has with nature means they can’t go along with what everything else is doing and they feel as if nature is working against them to funnel (their) heat away.

Plate also writes that the sky leans’ on her which implies the narrator feels trapped in the situation and if they move the sky will fall down for everyone else, this is Greek mythology imagery as Atlas was the titan who held up the sky in Greek mythology and this is similar to how the narrator feels in the scene described in the poem. Wind’ on the other hand discusses the oppressive relationship that one part of nature, the wind, has with other parts of nature such as the ‘magpie’, the stones’ and the ‘black-backed gull’ and the effect this has on the relationship between the individual and nature as the it creates a fearful relationship with the wind as the ‘stones cry out’, generally when a person hears intense emotion expressed in a ‘cry it creates the same effect on them and this is what the narrator is feeling during this part of the poem.

Withering heights’ however, appeared to be drawing more on personal experience than Wind’ as Plash’s mom was based on a personal experience which effected the narrators relationship with nature whereas Hughes poem was more observational as if the narrator was observing a scene which effected their relationship with nature. Withering Heights’ contains explicit links to death which portrays the relationship between the individual and nature The Plate poem ‘Spinster’ also explores the relationship between the individual and nature. In the poem Plate describes the narrator ‘of a sudden intolerably struck by the birds irregular Babel’ while walking with her ‘latest tutor’ which describes a release from the pressures in nature, the narrator uses nature as a distraction from the other person she is with. This shows the narrator has a greater interest in observing nature than forming a close relationship with other humans.

The description of the ‘uneven’ atmosphere caused by ‘her lover’s gestures’ implies that the narrator has a relationship with nature that no one should interfere with as another person changes her view of nature and makes it ‘rank and ‘Slovene’ in her eyes as if the presence of another person changes the dynamic of the ireful relationship between the individual and nature to make nature careless in its actions as the narrator ‘Judged the petals in disarray. The Hughes poem ‘Emily Bronze’ also talks of the character in the poem preferring their relationship with nature than humans as in the poem the wind on crow hill was her darling’ this implies the character did not have a relationship with anyone else to match their relationship with nature. The narrator appears to have a simple relationship with nature as the changes in their relationship mean she ‘longed for winter’, winter is a airily uneventful season in nature as animals hibernate and plants die which shows she wishes that she could be in this simpler time without the intrusion of the other person who is with her.

Unlike the previous paragraph nature is described as ‘scrupulously austere in its order’ which is the a direct opposite to ‘Slovene’ and in ‘disarray which shows how things change in the relationship between the individual and nature as the seasons change which could be illuminating of her relationship with other people. Plate then talks of ‘black and white’ which are simple clear colors which do not appear in nature very often other than in extreme weather such as snow which shows that the individuals relationship with nature is extreme and is always one extreme or the other, peaceful like snow or harsh and dark like storm clouds. Plate uses a similar comparison again on the next line where she writes of ‘Ice and rock both of which are hard and unyielding in the right conditions but ice melts easily which could represent the individual in the relationship as nature is solid as a rock but humans yield more easily due to will power and individual weaknesses.

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Literary Analysis: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. (2017, Jul 20). Retrieved from