Birthday Letters

A Red Red Spirit

Life and death, beginnings and endings. The death of one person: the ending of two lives, or the beginning of both? Sylvia Plath, tumbling through madness toward suicide, created a collection of poems titled Ariel, and used the theme poem to express the revelations she had while planning her own suicide. Thirty years later, the man who was blamed for her madness and death - her husband, British poet Ted Hughes - finally responded to the accusations with a set of his own poems he called The Birthday Letters. His poem Red is a direct response to Ariel. The two poems seek to present opposing views of Plath's madness and the "revelations" she found within insanity. One sees her death as a beginning, an entrance into a new state of consciousness. The other looks at it as an ending, as the loss of something unique and priceless. Sylvia Plath seems to suggest that her entire life had been meaningless, flat blankness, but that her madness had opened her eyes to a new world. Ted Hughes appears to look upon her death in a distinctly different way. He sees it as violent, as an enormous loss, as a fallacy that ruined everything Plath had.

Plath states her feelings in the first stanza of Ariel: "Stasis in darkness. / Then...

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