Birthday Letters Essay Questions

Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What was the connection between the author and Ted Hughes?

    Ted Hughes was a poet who lived in England. He and Sylvia met in 1956 at a party in Cambridge and Sylvia approached him, having read some of his poems. The couple married after only five months of knowing one another and they moved briefly back to America. After the birth of her first child, Sylvia talks about how she was abused by Ted and she eventually left him in 1962 when she found out about his affair with another woman. After being separated for six months, Sylvia killed herself.

  2. 2

    How was Sylvia Plath treated for depression?

    Sylvia Plath had a history of depression and she tried to take her own life on numerous occasions. Because of this, she was admitted to different psychiatric hospitals where she was treated for depression, the doctors using various means to deal with Sylvia’s problem. First, they used electroconvulsive therapy, a common practice during which seizures were produces with the help of electricity. She was also treated with insulin shock treatment, a process during which patients are placed in insulin induced comas over an extended period of time. Both treatments were risky and it is implied by many that Sylvia was affected by these treatments in a permanent way. Some of the treatments Sylvia underwent are mentioned in the poems.

  3. 3

    Why did Ted Hughes write the collection of poems titled "Birthday Letters?"

    Ted Hughes wrote the poems and published them in 1998, years after Sylvia Plath took her own life. Ted Hughes died the very same year and it was the first time Ted openly discussed his former wife and his reaction when she died. It is suspected that the reason why Ted wanted to publish a collection a poems about the matter is because he was until then the subject of controversy surrounding Sylvia’s death. Many blamed Ted for her suicide especially since it came to light that he abused her. After his mistress died in a similar fashion, the public became even more interested in the subject. Thus, the collection of poems is seen by many as Ted’s attempt to explain the relationship he had with Sylvia.

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