In You Hated Spain, Hughes explores the character of a woman and her relationship with her husband. You Hated Spain is set during the honeymoon of Plath and Hughes and is part of Hughes’ collection of poems titled Birthday Letters. Plath’s suicide was the result of a forced breakdown of communication with Hughes. Hughes’ use of free verse and enjambement creates a natural progression of thoughts. The autobiographical, ‘letter-writing’ genre suggests that these poems are a form of therapy, used to communicate Hughes’ unresolved feelings to a fictional Plath. You Hated Spain, St. Botolph’s and 55 Eltisley, along with the other poems in the volume depict the timeline of Plath’s and Hughes’ tumultuous marriage. The collection as a whole is an intimate elegy and celebration of Plath’s life and poetry.
Hughes illustrates the woman as fearful of Spain and emphasises the distance between the woman and her husband. Hughes uses personal pronouns and imagery to convey this. Hughes describes how “...the African Black edges to everything, frightened you.” The noun “edges” is premodified by “African” and “Black”. “African” provokes ideas of foreign, mysterious and uncivilised. “Black” connotes death, darkness, mysterious and evil. In the 1950s, Africa was seen as a wild and exotic continent. These images contrast starkly with Plath’s upbringing in an enclosed and civilised America. The alliteration of “edges” and “everything” is used to convey how she cannot escape Spain as her fear is everywhere. The repetition of “frightened you” reinforces the strong sense of miscommunication; Hughes is unable to comprehend the woman’s feelings of Spain and she cannot articulate her thoughts to him. Hughes highlights to the reader the disparity that the woman is terrified of Spain whereas her husband “feels at home”.
Hughes further depicts the woman as being unaccustomed to Spain. He inserts imagery of unknown and foreign things which she is unable to forge relations with. Hughes introduces this in the beginning of the poem, “The wrought-iron grille, death and the Arab drum”. The list of three is a tableau encompassing theSpanish history. The dissonance of “wrought-iron grille” creates an unpleasant and sombre tone and connotes imagery of prison bars. The noun “death” connotes darkness, sorrow and pain and links to the Spanish Civil War, the Peninsular War and World War II. However, the woman fails to acknowledge that violence, struggle and pain exist in her homeland too, merely viewing it as a clean and honest country. The “Arab drum” hints at the existence of diverse cultures and races in contrast to the 1950s largely white America. The reader feels sympathetic to the woman as she has been uprooted from her idea of normality.
Hughes also stresses that the woman cannot tolerate residing in Spain. Hughes states that ...