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Composers are gifted with the power to convey any message that they wish to get across. Through their chosen form they are able to communicate their message and perspective, and even manipulate the audience into sympathising with them. Our study of conflicting perspectives supports this statement, and is demonstrated through the poems ‘Sam’ and ‘The Shot’ written by Ted Hughes, the film ‘Doubt’ directed by John Patrick Shanley and the song ‘Dear John’ written by Taylor Swift.
With Ted Hughes’ poem ‘Sam’, we witness how the composer can control the audience to hold the same negative view of their chosen subject. The poem is an allegory as well as a recount, and has been written to convince the audience that, from Hughes’ perspective, Sylvia Plath’s instability was the downfall of their relationship. The repetitive “you lost your…” statements aren’t merely descriptions of what happened, but metaphors for how Plath slowly began to unravel as their relationship wore on. The rhetorical “What saved you?” and suggestion that her poems rescued her implies that Plath valued her poetry over her relationships, and as a result she neglected to care for Hughes. He metaphorically describes himself as “the white calm stallion” and states, “When I jumped a fence you strangled me one giddy moment…” The accusatory tone reinforces Hughes’ view that Plath choked the life out of their marriage, and depicts himself as her victim. His constant use of the words “you” and “your” sets up an important factor of the poem, where Ted explains his perspective of Plath versus his self-perspective. Ted Hughes’ description of Sylvia Plath manipulates the audience to view her as the destructive partner, demonstrating how composers cleverly use form to do so.
The same concept can be applied to the film ‘Doubt’. The composer portrays many of the events that happen from the perspective and perceptions of Sister Beauvier. Her suspicions of Father Flynn’s inappropriate relationship with Donald Miller is the catalyst for the director’s manipulation. A string of mid-shots that depict Father Flynn singling Donald out for added attention at first seem innocent, but are later thrown into a more unpleasant light. Maybe this man isn’t as righteous as he appears. A medium long shot of Father Flynn discreetly returning a shirt to Donald’s locker and the subsequent follow shot of Sister James investigating leads the audience to believe that this is another hint at Father Flynn’s indiscretion. Numerous other scenes allude to his guilt, but no conclusive evidence is ever found and there is never a confession. When Father Flynn states, “You haven’t the slightest proof of anything,” Sister Beauvier replies with, “But I have my certainty!” Her certainty is all that the audience has to rely on and she is the character that they choose to believe. The composer of ‘Doubt’ influences the audience to decide that Father Flynn is guilty, supporting the idea that composers use form to manipulate their audiences into viewing somebody in a negative light.
The ability that composers have to shift fault and responsibility is explored in ‘The Shot’, where Ted Hughes views himself as a target in his tumultuous marriage. His angry tone in the line, “Your worship needed a god,” showcases his resentment for how Plath treated men, particularly himself. He felt the weight of her high expectations for him. He further places Plath at fault through hyperbole, stating, “The elect more or less died on impact.” Hughes believes that Plath was the cause for the breakdown of her other relationships as well, since she was the common factor in all of them. Hughes’ use of metaphor, describing Plath as a bullet, makes him appear innocent to the audience. This is most noticeable in the lines, “For a long time… I did not even know I had been hit, or that you had gone clean through me,” where he illustrates himself as helpless. Once more Hughes relies on “you” and “your”, exemplifying that the poetry is written from his perspective. ‘The Shot’ is an example of how composers utilize form to remove blame from themselves, manipulating audiences into the same mindset as well.
Taylor Swift similarly exempts herself of culpability in ‘Dear John’. She uses metaphor in the lines, “You paint me a blue sky, and go back and turn it to rain,” to explain that John was the reason for her unhappiness. He created all the problems in their relationship and needed a certain level of excitement. Swift expands this further with another metaphor, saying, “I lived in your chess game, but you changed the rules every day.” She asserts that John was manipulative and incapable of being satisfied, always shifting the tables in their relationship and blaming her for not keeping up. Swift establishes his controlling and abusive tendencies through the descriptive language of, “…your dark, twisted games,” and imperfect rhyme in the line, “Never impressed by me acing your tests.” All the negative and problematic aspects of their relationship are thrown onto John, and it is only because of him that their relationship didn’t work out. Swift’s use of form enables her to portray John as the villain, which steers the audience into believing that her description of him is correct. ‘Dear John’ affirms the statement that composers can manipulate audiences and also rid themselves of blame.
Composers are able to control the views and responses of their audiences due to their clever use of form, and their personal opinions and perspectives manipulate the audience into agreeing with them. This is evident in the poems ‘Sam’ and ‘The Shot’, the film ‘Doubt’ and the song ‘Dear John’.
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