Compare the Ways in Which Plath and Hughes Write About Relationships
You must include in your response detailed critical discussion of ‘Morning Song’ and at least one other poem by Plath. Morning Song was written at the time of the birth of Plath’s first child Frieda, in April 1960. The poem’s title marks a new beginning and the start of the relationship between Plath and her newborn daughter, ‘Morning Song’.
It’s a positive start to the poem and almost sounds like a nursery rhyme. The poem generally has a positive theme throughout it. Plath opens her poem by talking about the baby as a ‘fat gold watch’; Plath’s use of language of the word ‘gold’ may have been used to show how precious the child is, and how it’s the most important thing to her as it was made out of love suggesting her relationship with Hughes at the time was a loving one.
And the ‘watch’ is perhaps Plath suggesting time spent together as a family, or it may be Plath putting forward a pessimistic thought that eventually, that watch will stop working just as our body does one day. From the next stanza we see that the mother is glad, as she talks about the great celebration that the baby has brought as ‘voices echo’ possibly Plath telling everyone about the new arrival and the positive relation she hopes to develop. We get the image that Plath worships her baby, as ‘… ew statue’ suggests she doesn’t think of her daughter as any less than a work of art. Plath mentions the ‘drafty museum’ maybe to explain how she will protect the baby as many people are going to want and come view the baby as Plath already suggested the baby being a work of art, and as art has it admirers, the baby has the visitors. Plath suggests that the baby is dependent on his/her parents, as she mentions the baby ‘Shadows’ their ‘safety’, and as the parents have another life to look after and the parents can’t just think about themselves anymore.
Plath’s use of language creates a mental image in the last line, as she refers to herself and other visitors as ‘walls’ providing shelter and protection for the baby, almost encasing the baby inside. The third stanza starts with Plath’s possible fears of becoming a mother as she writes as if she’s talking to the baby saying that, ‘I am no more your mother’ and then referring to herself as ‘the cloud’ suggesting there is nothing there, as a cloud is not water it’s just a faint mist, reinforcing the idea that Plath is maybe not ready for the great esponsibility of a baby as she doesn’t feel like a mother. She’s perhaps scared and doesn’t know how she’s going to cope. And so she suggests that she may not be able to foster their relationship as she’s feeling she may let her child down and so wants things to go ‘slow’ so she could possibly find a comfort zone. In the following stanza Plath carefully uses very soft-sounding and delicate wording such as, ‘moth-breath’ suggesting you can’t hear the baby breathing, and so creates a very tranquil image as the baby’s breathing sounds almost like the tiny fluttering of wings.
Plath describes how she knows when the baby is about to cry from her motherly instinct, ‘… A far sea moves in my ear’ suggesting she wants to comfort the baby before it even wakes up, possibly Plath being over-protective as she doesn’t want her baby to feel any discomfort and so is actually waiting for the baby to be awake. Plath connects the last stanza back to the title by describing the baby’s crying in the ‘morning’ as the ‘notes’ that make up a ‘song’, as even in the previous stanza Plath mentions it’s getting brighter outside by the light coming through ‘…
The window square’ suggesting its morning, and possibly a new beginning for Plath and her baby. A contrast to Plath’s relationship with her baby in the poem ‘Morning Song’ is Hughes poem ‘A March Calf’ in which we see Hughes’ relationship with nature which he often showcases in his poems. The title suggests a new beginning as the start of March is very summery giving a positive image, and it’s leaving behind February which is known to be cold and wintery which often brings to mind a negative image.
This poem like ‘Morning Song’ has both positive and negative aspects, as although the calf is looking into the future it also has a lot of difficulties to face ahead, as Hughes briefly mentions survival of the fittest ‘ He is already in the race, and quivering to win-‘ the race began for the calf as soon as he was born. In both poems there is the similarity of the young generation being talked about as in Plath’s poem she talks about her young baby whilst Hughes talks about a young calf in his poem.
Plath’s second poem ‘Daddy’ along with other poems by Plath can be seen as semi-autobiographical regarding her relationship with her father and possibly her husband, Ted Hughes. The poem explores the relationship between a girl and a dominant father figure. In the second stanza Plath suggests as if her relationship with her father was left unfinished, as she suggests he died too soon, and it maybe Plath expressing that her father died before she ‘had time’ to love him or before she could have asked him all the questions that she felt were left unanswered.
Plath’s relationship with her father probably wasn’t such a loving one as she describes her father as ‘marble-heavy’, like a corpse, the idea of him being very solid and cold. She then focuses more into the cold relationship she has with her father now that he has died, as she refers to him as a God but at the same time mentioning that, that ‘used to’ be her image of him before but now it’s changed.
Plath presents herself as a child as she describes the train ‘chuffing’ away, suggesting the train is moving away, perhaps symbolizing Plath being taken away from her father in the same way many Jews were taken away to concentration camps. She explores this point further and puts herself forward as a ‘Jew’ to possibly show she’s powerless in front of her father, just as the Jew’s were in front of the Nazi’s as the Nazi’s caused a lot of physical pain to them which also may be symbolic of Plath’s relationship with her father.
Plath lists the typical Aryan features, such as ‘bright blue’ eyes and a ‘neat mustache’, Plath may have mentioned this because her father may have seen himself as a perfect man whereas she may have not have, as Aryans were seen as the superior breed. Plath opens the next stanza with ‘Not God but swastika’ maybe to show she has lost respect for him or she possibly could be trying to say that before she only respected him out of fear, just as many German’s respected the Nazi’s out of fear, and their ‘swastika’ even today sparks the emotion of fear.
Plath makes an almost sarcastic comment about women adoring a ‘brute’ just like her father, making the man seem dominant and the woman subservient, although Plath may also be trying to put forward the point that she’s possibly lost the idealistic image of her father as now she only see’s him as ‘fascist’ or a ‘brute’, showing how the relationship between Plath and her father has slowly become bitter over time.
Plath immediately gives an animalistic and almost vampire-like image to her father, as vampires are seen to be cold-hearted maybe just like Plath views her father, as he should have been protecting her from heartbreak but instead he’s the one who’s ‘bit’ her heart in two. Although Plath seems to be very angry towards her father, she still mentions further on in the stanza how she attempted suicide to get ‘back’ to him and be with him in death as she mentions ‘… even the bones would do’ suggesting she wanted her bones to be with her father’s bones.
In the following stanza Plath seems to make a reference to her husband Hughes from whom she had recently separated. She portrays their relationship as a manifestation of her Electra complex, as ‘I made a model of you’ suggests she was attracted to Hughes because he reminded her of her father. She then describes what Hughes was like, and by using Nazi imagery Plath describes that Hughes had a ‘Meinkampf look’ suggesting that he wasn’t very loving and somewhat as bad as her father.
Plath may be referring to her father and Hughes when she talks about killing ‘two’, suggesting that she has moved on or possibly forgotten about them, although as she portrays them both as vampires it’s obvious that this was not done easily as Plath had to endure ‘seven years’ of marriage to this ‘vampire’. In the last stanza Plath yet again makes another vampire link to her father and portrays him as an evil figure as she talks about the ‘stake’ in his ‘fat black heart’ which may have been Plath’s way to get back at him, or it may be to suggest that he’s dead now.
She piles the blame on her father and makes everything seem like his fault as she describes she always ‘knew it was’ him, possibly to justify her hate for him. Plath ends the poem with the two words, ‘I’m through. ’ possibly meaning that she has overcome the memory of her father and has moved on with no regrets or emotions, as the last sentence is very blunt and cold. It could also mean that Plath is ‘through’ with dealing with painful memories and living with such thoughts going through her mind as she commits suicide a few months after writing this poem.
A similar poem to Plath’s poem ‘Daddy’ where she talks about her relationship with her father and husband is Hughes’ poem ‘Her Husband’ where he talks about a relationship between a husband and wife and even though there is a slightly negative theme throughout the poem, Hughes shows how the couple are still together despite the shortcomings in their everyday life. Hughes starts the poem by portraying the husband as a hard worker, as he comes home covered in ‘coal-dust’ everyday suggesting he’s a coal miner therefore reinforcing the hard work this man has to do to provide for his family.
Hughes then cleverly balances out both husband and wife as even though the man is a hard worker Hughes shows the woman spends all day cleaning and ‘scrubbing’ the house but all is put to waste as when her husband comes back from work he ‘deliberately’ covers everything in ‘grime’, but this may be Hughes trying to show that the husband wants his wife to experience how hard his job is and so he makes her scrub and clean in order to do so.
Hughes also ends his poem on a fairly positive note, as he shows that both the husband and wife make a compromise, as ‘their brief’ arguments go ‘straight up to heaven’ suggesting they both forget what happens, it’s as if they’re used to living this way now and it’s just be everyday life to them.