Born: October 27th 1932, Boston
Died: 11th February 1963, London
Sylvia Plath was born in 1932 and her Brother Warren was born in April,1935.
When she was around 8 years old (1940) her father Otto died and she was devastated but never showed it. In 1941 Plath’s poem was printed in the children’s section of Boston Herald, it was a short poem about what Plath’s saw and heard on summer nights.
After Plath had just graduated in 1950, her Poem “ Bitter Strawberries” appeared in The Christian Science Monitor which was her first national publication.
Also in 1950 Plath entered Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.
1952 Plath won Mademoiselle’s college fiction contest with her story “ Sunday At The Mintons.”
Through college she dated many boys and had a serious relationship with Dick Norton. However she developed depression and often thought about suicide.
Plath spent most of June 1953 as a guest editor at Mademoiselle’s magazine, she was one of twenty people to be involved in this. In August 1953 Plath stole the sleeping pills that had been locked away and crawled in the crawl space under the porch through the cellar, She took forty of them. Her parents found her 2 days later after hearing moaning coming from the cellar, when they found her she was covered in her vomit and dazed but alive.
April 1954 Plath started bleaching her hair platinum blonde and was awarded a $1,200 scholarship for her next year at Smith and also received one to Harvard Summer School.
During the summer in Boston (1954) Plath began to date an older man who she said had raped her and had nearly bleed to death from hemorrhage. She continued to him even after this incident had occurred.
1955 Plath’s “Go Get The Gloodly Squab” was published in Harper’s and she also received an honourable mention in Mademoiselle’s Dylan Thomas poetry contest for her poem “parallax.”
“Circus In Three Rings” was her first poem to finally be published in The Atlantic Monthly.
Early 1956 Plath had learnt that her grandmother had developed stomach cancer. At this time Plath was also suffered with insomnia and sinus infections and her writing was getting rejected from publication.
She then had attended a party where she met Ted Hughes an English poet who immediately caught her eye at first glance. By the time Plath and Hughes had been together for 2 months they were discussing marriage and decided to get married secretly so it wouldn’t jeopardize Plath’s fellowship grant. So on June 16th 1956 while Plath’s mum was visiting they got married. They spent there summer in Paris, Madrid and Benindorm. That September Plath had become pregnant, but she still believed she needed to keep the marriage a secret flew to the united states to have an abortion. In may 1957 Plath was offered a job at Smith College. Plath’s and Hughes first wedding anniversary on June 16th that was when bought her a huge vase of pink roses and brought them into there room.
In 1958 Her poems “Mussel Hunter at Rock Harbor” and “Nocturne” were accepted by The New Yorker after ten years of trying. During the fall Plath worked part-time at a psychiatric ward which she was admitted into after her suicide attempt. In early 1959 Plath and Hughes were in Mademoiselle article “Four Young Poems.” Plath for the first time ever visited her father’s grave, which inspired her poem “Electra on Azalea Path.” In December Plath discovered that see was pregnant.
On April the 1st 1960 Plath gave birth to a 7 pound 4 ounce baby girl in her own home, she was named Frieda. That summer the poems that Plath produced were: “You’re,” “The Hanging Man,” “Sleep in the Mojave Desert,” “ On Deck” and “Two Campers in Cloud Country.”
In 1961 Plath then learned again that she was pregnant, she was excited by the news and already started to pick out names. She was devastated when she miscarried on February 2nd 1961.During this time she wrote 7 poems: “Parliament Hill Fields”, “ Zoo Keeper’s Wife”, “Face Lift”, “Morning Song”, “Heavy Woman” and “Barren Woman”. Also in Late February Plath got her Appendix’s removed and during her stay in hospital she was inspired to write the poem “Tulips”. In march Plath completed “I Am Vertical” and her “Magi” appeared in The New Statesman. In December Plath found out that she was pregnant again.
On January 17, 1962 Plath gave birth to a little boy. 9 pound 11 ounce’s who she named Nicholas.
Around 4 Months after Nicholas was born Hughes left Plath for Assia and as he left Plath he said he hated her and that he had wanted to leave her for years. The spring Plath wrote 7 poems: “Little Fugue”, “An Appearance”, “Crossing the water”, “Among The Narcissi”, “Pheasant”, “Elm”, Event and The Rabbit Catcher”.
In June 1962 Plath started writing her book “The Bell Jar”.
From the 11th of November to the 4th Plath Produced 25 poems: “A Secret”, “The Application”, “Daddy”, “Medusa”, “The Jailer”, “Lesbos”, “Stopped Dead”, “Fever 103”, “Amnesiac”, “Lyonesse”, “Cut”,
“By Candlestick”, “ The Tour”, “ Poppies In October”, “Ariel”, “Purdah”, “Nick and The Candlestick”, “Lady Lazarus”, The Couriers”, “Getting There”, “The Night Dancers”, “Gulliver”, “ Thalidomide”,
“Letter In Nov” and “Death & Co.”.
“Poppies In October” and “Ariel” where both very well-known poems of hers.
The Bell Jar was published in England under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas.
In the early Morning Of February 11, 1963, Plath sealed her kids rooms and isolated herself in the Kitchen she then knelt in front of the oven and turned on the gas. Her body was found that morning by a nurse scheduled to visit.
She was buried February 16th in the Hughes family cemetery in Heptonstall.
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Sylvia Plath's poem “Tulips” is an interplay between the need for peace and an ascent to wellness. It tells a story from the perspective of a female persona. and it is in this voice that we read what her societal expectations are and what the female persona actually wants; and what she wants is in stark contrast to what society is willing to hand over. "Tulips," also addresses the political climate of the time when Plath wrote this poem. Women were supposed to stay within expected guidelines, such as house wife and mother, and the political difficulties for women were that women did not even have equal rights yet. The feminist movement was just coming to the forefront.
In can certainly be said that when Plath had pen in hand, she was both a woman and writer ahead of her time. She had a feminist leitmotif to her poetry and her poem, "Tulip" is written from the point of view as if the speaker has seen events which have already happened. The speaker desires objectivity from within her subjective thoughts. The speaker seeks to break out of the busyness of the world and its expectations and withdraw into her cocoon of silence and peacefulness (lines 29-32).
She is torn between being an artist and being a woman. She moves between the two worlds with some difficulties; not really fitting fully in either world. She wants to lose her baggage and obligations of her life: her husband and child (Line 18). She wants to be anesthetized from the harsh realities of the dogmatic principles that she cannot leave at this time of her life. Her voice was not only singular; she was inclusive of all the women who were like her persona, trapped within society and its rules.
Plath's work utilizes a form of narrative poetry, telling a story and it is written with seven lines in each stanza. The poem relies heavily on imagery by using the senses to create the world through the words. In her poem there is a battle between being a female and becomEssays Related to Sylvia Plath - Tulips
Throughout the poem Ã¬TulipsÃ® by Sylvia Plath, the author seems desperately searching for peace and tranquility, and instead finds everything she despises, symbolized by the tulips she received as a get well present. The hospital setting, in which she is Ã¬nobody,Ã® provides a place where she can Ã¬learn peacefulness, lying by myself quietly,Ã® as Plath explains in lines 3-4. She goes on to describe her room as very white and serene, and within the walls is a temporary escape from all the cares of the world outside, all the Ã¬baggageÃ® she carries in relation to her family. Then she receives the tulips, which contrast with the white so much that Plath says Ã¬they hurt meÃ® in line 36. The passage continues in this vein, relating that they Ã¬weigh her downÃ® in line 40, in a similar fashion as her family does. This is because the tulips make her Ã¬aware of my heartÃ® in line 60, telling her that she is becoming healthy and will have to leave the hospital and again be weighed down by the obligations of the outside world. The passage from lines 36-42 describe how painful this idea is to Plath.
It is apparent that the very nature of the tulips in Sylia PlathÃs poem Ã¬TulipsÃ® is offensive to her, particularly in the way that the flowerÃs red clashes with the serenity with the white walls around her. However, Plath also personifies her enemy the tulips to show us how she feels about her gift in a way the reader can understand.
The personification of the flowers begins with line 37 where Plath tells us that Ã¬Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe.Ã® This is only to set up the idea of the tulips being more than just inanimate. Her simile between the flowers and Ã¬an awful babyÃ® in line 38 gives the reader more understanding into her otherwise insane hatred for a simple flower. The tulips break her peaceful state, like an awful baby would break the sleep of his orEssays Related to Sylvia Plath's- Tulips
In the following essay, I will begin to discuss three poems written by the contemporary poet, Sylvia Plath (1932-1963). I have taken three poems from her “Ariel” collection, and they are “On the arrival of the Bee Box”, “Tulips” and “Wintering”. It is the hostile and often violent imagery in her poems that have been brought to my attention. These poems, particularly these three, reflect Plath’s strong resistance to the prospect of domestic entrapment as a wife and as a mother. Issues such as the feminist points of view and being a female poet in the American society will be addressed in the following as well. In Plath’s later works, they were written at the time before she died, and this is where we are engaged in her psyche through her poems.
In “Tulips”, Plath expresses her feelings through this poem, where she was in hospital for an appendectomy. She went through a miscarriage just a short time before this operation, and it is with this that is probably why the poem has the association of death and birth. The woman in the poem seems to grasp eagerly at the ability to relax completely because nothing is required of her, and thus becomes encompassed with the notion that she wants to become someone without a personal identity. This can be seen in the first stanza, where she says,
‘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’
Later on, we also become introduced with the notion that she wants to break away from her life, which is her marriage and her children. The third stanza depicts this notion of separation from her duties as a wife and mother:
‘Now I have lost myself, I am sick of baggage—
My husband and child smiling out of the family photo;
Their smiles catch onto my skin, little smiling hooks’
It seems like Plath is searching for freedom but her freedom is both wonderful and terrible, as her ‘hooks�.
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"Tulips" is a first-person poem about a woman recovering from an unknown operation in a hotel room.
The woman first notes that her hospital room is like "winter," white and resembling snow, and that the newly-arrived tulips are too "excitable" for such whiteness. Everything is peaceful as she lies on her bed quietly, watching the light play on the walls, on the bed, and on her hands. She considers herself inconsequential, utterly removed from loud, explosive things. She has surrendered her identity and her clothes to the nurses, her "history to the anesthetist," and her body "to the surgeon."
The hospital staff has propped her body up between the pillow and the sheets, which she equates to being like an eyeball between two lids that cannot close. From this vantage, she cannot avoid "tak[ing] everything in," even though she wishes it were otherwise.
The nurses come in and out of her room, but they do not bother her. There are so many of them, all dressed in white and constantly busy doing "things with their hands," that she cannot determine how many of them there are.
She notes that the nurses treat her gently and smoothly, the way "water/ Tends to the pebbles it must run over." The nurses bring her sleep and numbness with their needles. Because of her illness and her sense of selflessness, she does not need the "baggage" that her life had before surgery: she does not need her black suitcase, or her husband and child that she sees in a family photo. She is like a "cargo boat" that holds onto her name and address only, and has lost all other "associations" in life. All of the material items from her old life melted away as she sunk below the water, and she likens herself to a pure nun.
In fact, she never wanted the tulips; she only wanted to lie in her bed and be empty, free, and peaceful. This simple peacefulness is utterly enormous, yet it only requires a "name tag, a few trinkets." She considers it akin to what the dead must feel, what they must close their mouths on.
The redness of the tulips pains her, and she believes she can hear them breathing lightly through their wrapping paper. The color also speaks subtly to the color of her wound. The tulips oppress and upset her, and she compares them to "a dozen red lead sinkers round [her] neck," dragging her down.
She used to be alone in the room, but now the tulips share her space, watching her and eating up the oxygen. She feels caught between the tulips and the window behind her, believing she has lost her face while surrounded by the flowers and the sun.
The air in the room used to be calm, but it is now agitated and loud because of the tulips. The air now draws her attention to the flowers, where her attention had previously been less directed, "playing and resting without committing itself."
She feels the walls are getting warmer. The only solution is to place the tulips in captivity, since they are dangerous like a jungle animal. Her heart opens and closes on its own, keeping her alive because it loves her. The water she tastes is "warm and salt," like the ocean, and comes from a place of health that she considers to be far away.Analysis
“Tulips,” written on March 18th, 1961, is one of Plath’s most beloved and critically acclaimed poems. It was originally published in Ariel . Ted Hughes has stated that the poem was written about a bouquet of tulips Plath received as she recovered from an appendectomy in the hospital. The poem is comprised of nine seven-line stanzas, and has no rhyme scheme. Its subject is relatively straightforward: a woman, recovering from a procedure in a hospital, receives a bouquet of tulips that affront her with their glaring color and vividness. She details the manner in which they bother her, insisting she prefers to be left alone in the quiet whiteness of her room.
“Tulips” is a rich and evocative poem. Plath contrasts the whiteness and sterility of the hospital room with the liveliness of the tulips. In regards to the former, she explains “how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in.” There, she is “nobody” amidst of a sea of faceless nurses who bring "no trouble." She is frequently numbed by medications, and has lost all of her "baggage." She is but a “thirty-year-old cargo boat” whose former life has disappeared. In other words, she treasures the whiteness and sterility because they allow her an existence devoid of any self, in which she is defined by no more than the feeling she has at any particular moment. She has no context.
The tulips work against her desire to "lie with [her] hands turned up and be utterly empty.” She personifies them with excitability, with loud breathing, and with eyes that watch her as she rests. Her choice of adjectives - "excitable," "red," vivid" - all imbue them with a sense of liveliness. In fact, they are dangerous and alluring like an African cat. Even their color reminds her of her wound, which implicitly suggests it reminds her of her past.
The main tension in the poem, therefore, is between the speaker’s desire for the simplicity of death and the tulip's encouragement towards life. What attracts her to the sterility of the hospital room is that it allows her to ignore the complications and pains of living. Her “loving associations” have been stripped away, and she feels pure and peaceful. The feelings suggested by her description of the room are hibernation, dormancy, and detachment. Here, she does not have a “self.” She does not have to worry about her family, the pressures of being a woman, her education, etc. Perhaps the harshest image in the poem is that of her husband and child in a picture frame. For the average reader, this is the image we expect to encourage an invalid towards life, but she considers it as simply another factor of annoying encouragement. The tulips thrust themselves in front of her with all of the brazenness of life. They not only watch her, but also insist that she watch them. By bringing warmth and noise to the room, they demand she acknowledge the vivacity of life. One critic described the effect of the tulips on the speaker as the feeling one experiences when his or her leg begins to prickle with feeling after having fallen asleep.
The choice she must make is to either embrace death or painfully return to life. Most critics seem to agree that she chooses the latter. Marjorie Perloff writes that “in her anxiety, [Plath] equates the tulip petals with the ‘red blooms’ of her heart which insists on beating despite her desire for death. Finally, life returns with the taste of her hot tears; health is a ‘far away’ country but at least now it is remembered. The spell of the hospital room is broken.” In other words, she comes to realize that life is her natural state, and that she will fight for it instinctively in the way her heart beats instinctively. Pamela Annas bases her argument around the organization of stanzas. She notes how, in the first four stanzas of the poem, the speaker “[describes] the world of the hospital in the yearning tones of one who has already turned her back on it and knows it is slipping away,” and in the fifth, she begins referring to her wish to stay in the past tense. In other words, the verb tenses and tone suggest the speaker is slowly accepting her decision through the poem, rather than actively making the choice.
M.D. Uroff agrees, seeing the end of the poem as a tentative return to health, but also views the poem as an expression of the mind's ability to “generate hyperboles to torture itself.” In other words, he does not want the general interpretation - that the speaker chooses life - to distract from the harshness of her perspective towards life. Barbara Hardy concurs, writing that the tulips are “inhabitants of the bizarre world of private irrational fantasy, even beyond the bridge of distorted science: they contrast with the whiteness of nullity and death, are like a baby, an African cat, are like her wound (a real red physical wound, stitched so as to heal, not to gape like opened tulips) and, finally, like her heart;” yet they, more than anything else, are what bring her back to life. It is safe to assume that without them, she would have remained ensconced in her bed, enjoying her lifelessness. The irony of the tulips is that they save her by torturing her, by forcing her to confront a truth that she otherwise would ignore in favor of the easier lifelessness. What this interpretation implies, then, is that the choice of life is necessarily a difficult and painful one, whereas death is not itself a choice but rather simply a refusal to continue living.
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Imagine you're a twenty-eight year old tortured soul. You've recently miscarried, and now you're lying in a hospital bed, recovering from an appendectomy. Now go ahead and write a poem. Seem tough? Well, this is exactly the state of affairs Sylvia Plath found herself in when she was inspired to write "Tulips ," written in 1961, but published after her death in 1965.
Don't let the name of the poem fool you. If you know anything about Sylvia Plath, you probably know that she committed suicide, and in a pretty gruesome way. It's usually the first thing we think of when we think of Sylvia Plath (definitely not tulips, at least). She struggled, pretty openly, with depression for years, and attempted suicide several times before she finally succeeded in ending her life in 1963. Of her first attempt, she said that it felt like she had "blissfully succumbed to the whirling blackness that [she] honestly believed was eternal oblivion" (source ). Hmm…that sounds an awful lot like our speaker, who
[…] only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.
How free it is, you have no idea how free (29-31)
Except in "Tulips," the speaker seems to want to succumb to whiteness, not blackness. Still, this poem's themes of freedom and confinement, isolation, and suffering are unsurprising given Plath's personal history. The speaker at times sounds like she's on the brink of being suicidal, and there are definite breaks with reality throughout the poem.
But then again, maybe we're just reading these things into the poem because we know so much about Plath's troubles. Her story is so well known, it has become hard to separate her writing from her mental illness. But separate they are. Plath's emotional turmoil is important, of course, and this poem is in no way trying to sugarcoat the pain of life. In fact, illness itself (and the suffering that goes along with it) is one of the main issues the poem tackles. But when you read "Tulips," you might want to try to take a step back from the details of Plath's life and really just sink into your own experience of it.
After all, we don't love this poem because of who Sylvia Plath was (although she was fiercely cool). We love it because it's full of astonishing, exciting, moving images, and because it shares an experience of pain and suffering in an original, unusual way. We're willing to bet you'll love it for some of the same reasons we do.Why Should I Care?
We need poems for happy times, to make us laugh or to help us celebrate. But we totally need poems for the hard times, too. Sometimes they can make us feel better, and sometimes they can just be a way to scream out – to let the world know we're hurting.
Of course we hope you've never felt as blue as the speaker of "Tulips," and we definitely don't want you to read this poem just to bum yourself out. But anyone who has felt alone or scared or sick (and that's got to be all of us at one point or another) will recognize something in this poem.
It can be a truly awesome experience to see difficult, familiar feelings transformed into beautiful poetry, and Sylvia Plath does this about as well as anyone we know. Her imagery can be quite brutal, but also incredibly moving. Even just the last three lines, with their mix of sadness and hope, pain and joy, make the reading of the whole poem worthwhile. Give it a try. We're pretty sure you'll agree.People who Shmooped this also Shmooped.
Summary: Essay provides an overview of the poem "Tulips" by Sylvia Plath.
In Sylvia Plath's poem, "Tulips," the persona, who seems to be searching for peace and tranquility, finds everything she loathes instead, after receiving tulips as a present. The poem infers a universal perception that, abandonment of responsibility and isolation is followed by an undesirable shove back into reality. This perception is conveyed in a strong yet precise manner through the usage of stylistic devices such as personification, diction, metaphor, imagery, simile, and symbolism.
"Tulips," is about a woman in a hospital, who doesn't want to leave, because she feels free from her "baggage" there. This serene feeling is described through a simile that says, "My body is a pebble to them, they tend it as water/Tends to the pebbles it must run over, smoothing them gently." These lines imply that the persona is relaxed by the way that the nurses tend to her, gently soothing her over.
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Tulips - Comments and Information
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Poet: Sylvia Plath
Volume:The Collected Poems
Year: Published/Written in 1961
Last read: 2016-07-25 21:37:18
Poem of the Day: May 28 2016
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