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Examining Tone, Choice of words and Imagery in the Poem "Tulips" by Sylvia Plath.

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Examining Tone, Choice of words and Imagery in the Poem "Tulips" by Sylvia Plath Tulips, to most people are beautiful, fragrant flowers that brighten a room or can make your gardens come to life with exceptional radience. When reading the poem, "Tulips" by Sylvia Plath the reader immediately will see the hatred this woman has for these simple flowers. Plath uses strong images to illustrate the positive attitude the speaker has towards the hospital until she receives the tulips, which become the speakers obsession and object of extreme hatred. The tulips represent life, energy, and passion which are the three aspects of life the speaker is trying to escape from. Tulips is not a cheerful poem, but it does move from coldness to warmth, from numbness to love, from empty whiteness to vivid redness, in a process manipulated by one's imagination. "Tulips", by Sylvia Plath, is a poem about a patient's stay in a hospital. The speaker has just underwent surgery and is recovering in a white room. A dozen tulips are brought into the room as a get well gift and cause the speaker to awaken from the peacefulness she's become accustomed to. The speaker then reminiscences about her entire hospital experience and realizes that she will, in the end, have to go back to her obligations and former life. In the poem "Tulips", I would like to examine how Plath's choice of words, tone and imagery explain the themes of purity, the reluctance ...read more.


The speaker slowly loses her identity while being a patient in the hospital. Lying quietly in a hospital bed, the speaker realizes, "I am nobody." (5) Reflecting over her situation, she concludes, "I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses/ and my history to the anesthetist and my body to the surgeons." (6) The speaker's clothes, a symbol of her identity, are given to the nurses. Her clothes are then replaced with a standard issued gown that is worn by all patients. This act of uniformity erodes the speaker's individuality. In addition, the speaker is also given anesthesia that keeps her temporarily unaware from her own personal history and life. In the hands of a surgeon, the speaker is identical to the other patients. She is unable to stand out as an individual to the surgeon, and herself, because she no longer wears her day clothes and cannot recall her own history. Recovering from surgery, nurses further impede the awareness of the speaker as she recalls, "They bring me numbness in their bright needles, they bring me sleep." (17) Even after the surgery, the speaker's identity is weakened as the nurses take away her pain. Plath compares the nurses and herself as "my body is a pebble to them, they tend it as water tends to the pebbles it must run over, smoothing them gently." ...read more.


"I only wanted to lie with my hands turned up and utterly empty," (29) protests the speaker of her wishes and she concludes, "How free it is, you have no idea how free-the peacefulness is so big it dazes you." (31-32) The speaker compares her current experience with peace as "what the dead close on, finally, I imagine them/ Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet" (34-35). Her peace is so tranquil, barren, within the white walls of the hospital room. pure and absent from the realities of life, the speaker relates this similar sensation with those that are near death. These vivid images of a sad woman bring this poem to life so that the reader can almost feel the torment this woman is facing. Understanding the themes of purity, the reluctance of maternal responsibilities, the process of losing personal identity, and the quest for inner peace of the speaker enhance the appreciation and understanding of Plath's Tulips. After the speaker curses the tulips for disturbing her peaceful state of mind, she resigns and complains, "Before they came the air was calm enough, coming and going, breath by breath, without any fuss." (50-51) These tulips are a reminder that soon enough the speaker's life will continue as it once had before the surgery. The speaker now knows that one state of emotions, conditions, and the concept of true purity can never exist in her world. Yet she does learn that peace is achievable, no matter her obligations and the speaker will once again revisit this peaceful state. ...read more.

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