Birthday Letters Literary Elements

Birthday Letters Literary Elements

Speaker or Narrator, and Point of View

The narrator is Ted Hughes and he writes the poems from a first person perspective. This makes the reader feel as if Ted Hughes is writing a confession and the reader has the opportunity to read it.

Form and Meter

Because the poems in the collection are modern poems, there is no form of meter.

Metaphors and Similes

In the first poem, Ted mentions buying a peach and not enjoy the taste when he eats it. He later realizes that he had not enjoyed the taste of the peach and feels sorry for it. The peach is used here as a metaphor for Sylvia and the author wants to transmit the idea that he did not appreciate Sylvia as he should have until it was too late.

Alliteration and Assonance

We find assonance in the line ‘My neck-nerve’.


In the second poem, Ted mentions the therapy Sylvia went through in her youth, therapy that had the purpose of curing her of depression. Hughes notes ironically that the treatment did not helped her and made things worse instead.


Autobiographical poems


Most poems are set inside the author’s home.


Tragic, remorseful

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonists in the poems are Sylvia and Ted Hughes, and the antagonists are the doctors who treated Sylvia and her father.

Major Conflict

The major conflict is between Ted desire to take care of his children and the pain he feels after his wife’s death.


Because this is a collection of poems, there is no climax.


In a way, when the author talks about his children’s pain he foreshadows how his son will kill himself later.


When Ted talks about himself as if he is a baby he does not want to suggest that he is literally a baby but rather that he does not feel ready to deal with the pain caused by Sylvia’s death and with the fact that he has to take care of his children on his own.


In the poems, the author alludes that the one who suffered the most was he because he had to learn how to live without his wife and how to take care of his children on his own.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

The term "bullet" is used here in a general way to make reference to what pushed her to commit suicide.




When talking about his pain, the author calls himself "The Hanged Man" to transmit the idea that he is suffering.


In the poem Life After Death, when the author talks about the wolves near his house and he described them as "wailing for you."

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