Explore the way in which the poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes depict the theme of death in their work.

Both Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath depict a sense of transition that comes with death, suggesting that the dead being becomes changed when viewed in death. However, while Hughes, in his poem ‘View of a Pig’ removes any sentiment from the process of life and death, instead suggesting a blunt pointlessness that comes with it, Plath, in her poem, ‘Edge’ rather suggests that a completeness can be obtained in death that is failed to be achieve in life. In ‘View of a Pig’ the idea of a lack of meaning to life is emphasised, and Hughes treats the life cycle as pointless; the removal of sentiment leaving a very harsh outlook on life and death. The narrator describes it as, ‘thick pink bulk’ and says, ‘I thumped it without feeling remorse.’ The blunt heavy language of ‘bulk’ and ‘thumped’ gives the poem an oppressive feel, with the shocking imagery of violence emphasising the unconventional treatment of death by the poet. Furthermore, the dissonance of the line, “its trotters stuck straight out,” gives the poem a severity, the image giving no indication that the animal ever had any energy or liveliness, therefore removing any sentiment from its death by the portrayal of it having a pointless, meaningless life. In Plath’s poem ‘Edge’, on the other hand, rather than conveying a sense of ugliness and brutality with death as done in Hughes’ poem, she suggests that a completeness that is only strived after in life can finally be achieve in death. The poem begins with, ‘The woman is perfected. / Her dead / Body wears the smile of accomplishment.’ In starting the poem with this simple statement, the poem already begins to allude to the theme of neatness and completion, the word ‘perfected’ suggesting an ongoing process that has finally been achieved. The poem is characterised throughout with a sense of relief, Plath going on to write, ‘her bare / Feet seem to be saying: / We have come so far, it is over.’ Rather than as Hughes suggests, death bringing about a brutality, Plath instead suggests this harshness existing in life, with death being the ultimate escape from it. 

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