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A Picture of Otto Summary & Analysis
by Ted Hughes

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The British poet Ted Hughes published "A Picture of Otto" in his final collection, Birthday Letters, in 1998. This collection is heavily autobiographical, and focuses on the relationship between Hughes and his former wife, the famous American poet Sylvia Plath (who died by suicide in 1963). In this particular poem, Hughes addresses Plath's father, Otto, whom Plath depicted as an overbearing tyrant (and also conflated with Hughes) in her poem "Daddy." Hughes meets Otto in the underworld, and, rather than confront him in anger, expresses sympathy for and solidarity with him. Hughes suggests that Plath's perception of both men was just that: her perception, rather than the objective truth of who they were. In this way, the poem seeks to complicate the mythology surrounding Hughes and Plath's relationship, while also suggesting more generally that there are many sides to any story.

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