Double image : the Hughes-Plath relationship as told in Birthday letters : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in English at Massey University
Proceeding from a close reading of both Birthday Letters and the poems of Sylvia Plath, and also from a consideration of secondary and biographical works, I argue that implicit within Birthday Letters is an explanation for Sylvia Plath's death and Ted Hughes's role in it. Birthday letters is a collection of 88 poems written by Ted Hughes to his first wife, the poet Sylvia Plath, in the years following her death, There are two aspects to the explanation Ted Hughes provides. Both are connected to Sylvia Plath's poetry. Her development as a poet not only causes her death as told in Birthday Letters, but it also renders Ted Hughes incapable of helping her, because through her poetry he is made to adopt the role of Plath's father. This explanation is possible because Hughes conflates Sylvia Plath's self with the personae of her poems.