The Metaphors of Ted Hughes

Ted Hughes is considered to be one of the best poets that had ever lived, he is also considered a favorite among poetry enthusiast even up to this day.  His works are considered as included to the canons of poetry that are being studied and being used as references in many learning institutions worldwide.  Ted Hughes and his poems popularity didn’t gain worldwide acceptance just because of his highly criticized and controversial marriage to another popular writer, Sylvia Plath.  His poems are just that terrific, in fact, he is considered as the best poet of his generation by many critics.  He has this unique and impeccable grasp of the language that he wields on his poetry.

His poetry became known for the resonant language that rings in the subconscious of the readers, vivid and rich imagery that opens the eyes of the readers, the cadence and speech rhythms that keep the readers’ hearts pounding to every beat.  Among these elements of poetry that had made Ted Hughes an immortal in the world of literature is the metaphors, metaphors that simply act like an addictive substance that keeps the audience wanting for more, poem after another.  This may well be the reason why Ted Hughes’ poetry became so widely read.

Ted Hughes’ choice and use of metaphors

Ted Hughes’ choice and use of metaphors are basically depending on the topic that his poems wish to tackle.  He was quite very fond of using mythology and folklore as metaphors to describe contemporary topics. He also had employed animals and natural phenomena to show how he views human nature and the condition of human living.  She also had some metaphors for her wife Sylvia Plath. Those poems had later received a barrage of criticisms from the supporters of Sylvia Plath (Heptonstall).

Ted Hughes is certainly one of the best wielders of metaphors to sharpen his poetry. It just shows that the range of the types of metaphors is of a wide range. It even seems that Ted Hughes can utilize anything as a metaphor.

A very notable thing about his use of metaphors is that even though most of the metaphors are items that can be seen everyday and sometimes even taken for granted, the use of the metaphors is still gripping and interesting. It is undeniable that the metaphors that he uses are quite clichés as they were already used by many poets that preceded him. But the admirable fact is that Ted Hughes has this unique talent of transforming clichés into something fresh and interesting.

Mythology and folklore as Ted Hughes’ metaphors

Ted Hughes has this fascination with the mythological and folkloric. It just shows because of the many poems that he had written that employs the mythological and folkloric as his metaphors. One of the most famous of these poems is entitled “The Minotaur.” The poem is quite shall I say spooky in tone “left your mother a dead end had brought you to the horned bellowing grave of your risen father and your own corpse within it.” (Hughes)

Other poems that had also displayed Ted Hughes fascination with the mythological and folkloric are: his adaptation of the famous Greek tragedy “Oedipus Rex” that he had given the title “Orghast,” and his adaptation of the famous tormented Greek hero Prometheus that he had given a witty and catchy title, “Prometheus in His Crag.” (Heptonstall) Ted Hughes fascination with the mythological and folkloric just tells us that he is a well-read poet and he has respect and appreciation for those who had written before him.

The natural world used as metaphors by Ted Hughes

Ted Hughes is known for being close to nature, actually, his sensitivity towards nature is renowned and admired by other poets. His poems about the natural world became models for aspiring poets for generations.


Ted Hughes is actually considered by many as the poet of animals (Heptonstall). He had written many poems that had utilized animals as the main metaphors. The number of his poems about animals could cover even cover several anthologies. To discuss them all would exceed the pages allowed for this essay. To name some of the most famous of them we have “The Jaguar,” “The Crow Poem,” and his signature poem and most anthologized “The Thought-Fox.”


He had shown his appreciation for the natural world in his poem “Pike” which was set in the seaside. Ted Hughes had displayed in a single line his perception of the sea during his writing of this poem “None grow rich in the sea…” (Hughes) In this poem, Ted Hughes had portrayed the sea as a scary place. But that fear doesn’t mean that he has a literal fear for the ocean like he has some phobia of swimming. That fear means that he respects the sea, with amazement to its duality of sheer power and undeniable beauty.

Another example of how Ted Hughes had utilized nature as a metaphor is in his poem entitled “The Beach.” This poem was suppose to be about her wife Sylvia Plath, about her depression and frustrations on her constant quest for “true” freedom. Here is an excerpt from the poem “you crave like oxygen American early summers yourself burnt dark some prophecy mislaid somehow England was so poor” (Hughes)

Ted Hughes metaphors for Sylvia Plath

Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath’s marriage and relationship is probably the most controversial union in the writing world. Both of them were excellent writers, actually considered the best of their generation, and that fact had initially given us the impression that it was a match made in heaven. Then, the world was shocked when Sylvia Plath had taken her own life. Many blame Ted Hughes and their failed marriage as the main reason why Sylvia Plath had committed suicide. Here is an example of how Ted Hughes had used metaphors, in this case a fox, to describe her failing marriage with Sylvia Plath “I had grasped that whatever comes with a fox is a test of marriage and proves it a marriage I would not have failed it? But I had failed our marriage had failed.” (Hughes)


Ted Hughes’s grasp of the poetic element called metaphors is definitely undeniable. His strength as a poet is definitely displayed by his wide range of topics that he can use a metaphor. He is able to convey his ideas through the identities of the metaphors that he employs. Through that style, he is able to keep his poems fresh and always interesting to read and hear. Ted Hughes’ use of rich metaphors supplies the readers a link as to what these metaphors has to say. Moreover, since he is quite notorious for always employing metaphors in his poems, the readers are always looking forward to reading and hearing his poetry since they know that metaphors are used as symbols that poetry enthusiasts are always very interested to unearth the hidden meanings.

Works Cited

Heptonstall, Geoffrey. “Ted Hughes: New Selected Poems, 1957-1994.” Contemporary

Review 266.n1553 (June 1995): 330(2). General OneFile. Gale. Winter Park High

School. 24 Mar. 2008 <>.

Hughes, Ted. Poems

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