Wuthering heights is the title of both Ted Hughes’ and Sylvia Plath’s poem. Although their poems are about the same subject matter, it is necessary to compare these two because they are individuals who have very different opinions and interpretations to each other. Hughes writes about Wuthering Heights and its surroundings but mainly focuses on Sylvia, whereas she only describes her surroundings and appears to be by herself. The length of Hughes’ poem is unusually long, rejecting the traditional structures of poetry.
It consists of 4 paragraphs of all different lengths that lack basic structure and consistency. The 1st paragraph describes the surroundings and Sylvia’s great enthusiasm for it. The sentences are reasonably short except when used the word ‘then’ the sentences suddenly become longer in a cumulative effect, primarily to exaggerate time. The poet retreats to short sentences again when talking about a new subject matter and uses this method in an alternative way. The 2nd Paragraph is very short and describes the decaying and desolate scenery accentuating time retrospectively.
The 3rd paragraph compares Sylvia’s ambitions with Emily’s ‘failed efforts’. This paragraph is also very short telling the readers that there really is no comparison, for Sylvia was ‘twice as ambitious as Emily’. The 4th paragraph is longer explaining that Emily should be the one jealous of Sylvia’s ‘frisky glances’ and ‘huge hope’. In comparison to Hughes poem, Plath’s is shorter that has a consistency of 9 lines in each of the 5 stanzas, following a more traditional theme to her poetry.
Each stanza takes the readers to a new scene, which is being described. The first stanza describes horizon as the sun begins to set. The second stanza illustrates the atmosphere on top of the hill and the third talks about the sheep and their appearance. The fourth describes a totally different and new scene and the fifth describes the sky and total darkness that signifies closure. She mentions the sky in the first and last stanza providing a comparison for the readers. Additionally, the word ‘now’ informs the reader that the sun has finally set.
Unlike Hughes, Plath uses long sentences using commas to embellish the time spent in this area. Hughes’ poem is written in the past tense because there is a ‘snapshot’ of Sylvia being mentioned. Therefore the poem is retrospective and the photograph probably provoked a reaction and caused him to write the poem. However, Plath’s poem is written in the present tense, which gives the readers the impression that she was actually writing in it there, as it was fresh in her mind. The readers can empathise with her, even more since it is also written in the 1st person narrative.
Similarly Hughes also writes in the 1st person narrative but there is no mention of how he feels, which gives the impression that he is detached from the scene and is only observing, very much like writing in the 3rd person narrative. This technique makes the poem very similar to a story being told and the readers are able to reflect the poet’s observations. The language used by Hughes often as a double meaning. ‘It was all novel.. to you’. This is a ‘play on words’ as not only does it mean innovative but Plath and Hughes wrote novels too. Much like Hughes, Plath uses the word ‘browsing’ as a double meaning.
Firstly, as vegetation that animals are eating and secondly as surveying goods in leisurely manner, emphasising how the sheep have no significance of time. Words like ‘singe’ are onomatopoeic and help create a fiery atmosphere for the readers to imagine. Similarly Hughes uses onomatopoeias like ‘flaking’ and ‘crumbling’ to reinforce the idea of decay. He also has an interesting word choice. When the words ‘midget’, ‘elvish’ and ‘dwarfish’ are used to describe Emily’s possessions the readers feel that not only is the poet over exaggerating but almost incorporating a sense of fairy tale and myth into the poem too.
Hughes uses a moderate form of alliteration such as, ‘transatlantic elation elated’ and ‘wuthering heights withering’which cleverly provides slight rhythm to the poem. Sylvia’s strong use of colour paints a vivid and atmospheric picture in the readers mind, reflecting the poets observations and emotions. There is a distinct repetition of the word ‘black’ in both poems but in each case has a different effect to it. Sylvia uses it to describe the darkness overpowering the surroundings as the sunsets.
Hughes uses this, as well as using it to create the atmosphere of death and abandonment, not to mention jealousy. The repetition of ‘dark’ ‘iron’ and ‘failed’ further amplify the negligence of Emily and wuthering heights. Both Hughes and Plath use vivid imagery to heighten and give meaning to their descriptions. The ‘moor lifted and opened its dark flower for you too’. Hughes depicts the moor as a flower blossoming symbolising Sylvia’s power as the sun in a very metaphorical way. Using the same technique he also describes Sylvia’s potential in life as a ‘jewel… efracting every tint’.
This emotive language leads the reader to believe that this potential of Sylvia’s was very precious and to be treasured. Correspondingly, Plath uses metaphors to help the readers develop a better mental picture of her descriptions. The sheep’s ‘dirty wool clouds’ accentuates the texture and colour of their fur and their ‘grandmotherly disguise’ tells the reader that the place only seems old and decaying, which contrasts with Hughes perspective.
Hughes also uses similes for the same reasons. ‘… poem unfurled from you like a loose frond of hair from your nape… ept in a book’ When compared to Emily, the readers understand that it so natural for Sylvia to write a poem that she is almost unaware of it happening. Sylvia too, uses similes to assist the readers in seeing things from her perspective. ‘valleys… black as purses and the house lights gleam like small change’. Hughes personifies the wind when it ‘… came with empty eyes to look… ‘ suggesting that every attention was made to Sylvia that she became almost a substitute of Emily, whose ghost on hearing this would be stunned or even envious.
Plath uses personification when describing ‘the air remembers a few odd syllables… ‘ informing the reader the eeriness and emptiness of this area. Also when she mentions ‘… the sky leaning… ‘ accompanied by the word ‘weighting’ suggests its like a burden, strong and overpowering. Hughes tone of voice seems irritated and impatient with the surroundings and especially with the tour guide, for ‘he effervesced like… wine kept too long’. The constant detailed depiction of negative aspects of the surroundings such as ‘floors were rubble of stone and sheep dropping’ suggest a very pessimistic view.
In strong contrast, Plath seems so overwhelmed with what she is observing that she is completely distracted and hasn’t mentioned Ted Hughes. The intricate detail of her descriptions, suggest an overall optimistic view. ‘The black slots of their pupils take me in. ‘ Additionally, the mention of her feelings: ‘… they might warm me’, presents her enthusiasm and energy of her presence in this location. There is also dramatic irony being used by Hughes when the guide mentions that ‘writer were pathetic people’ when the readers know that both Plath and Hughes were writers.
In conclusion, reading both poems gives us a better understanding of how one location can seems totally different through someone else’s eyes. Both Highes and Plath’s poem are effective in their own ways. Plaths portrays her passion through dramatic and colourful imagery, whereas Hughes illustrates his bitterness through diction and exaggeration. Both have been successful in their intentions of provoking the readers to make their own interpretations and understandings of what is happening.