Morning Song by Sylvia Plath is a poem about motherhood and the bond between newborn babies and the outside world. From the moment the infant is born before she mumbles her first vowels, the protagonist explains the different situations she faces. When the infant is born, it is obvious that the mother is unable to recognize her new position as a mother, comparing the child to inanimate objects and even hesitating to specifically admit that she is the mother. However, a near bond begins to form between the two, and by the end of the poem, it is clear that the newly established family’s relationship is deep. An analysis of the poem reveals several themes. The author also uses various literary elements to accomplish the said thematic developments including symbolism, metaphors, imagery and world play. This essay provides an in-depth interpretation of Sylvia Plath’s poem Morning Song including an analysis of the themes developed by the author and the literary techniques used.
The poem begins with a vivid description of childbirth where a midwife slaps the baby’s foot soles to make it cry. The first three stanzas show the lady’s struggle with her new role. The conflict is particularly apparent in the author’s choice of words that describe the baby. She states that “Love set you going like a fat gold watch” (stanza 1, line 1). Her comparison of the newborn baby to a mechanical and innate object raises the question of her true feelings about her new state of motherhood. The objectification of the child is also depicted in her comparison of the baby to a statute in a museum (stanza 2, line 1). Another key aspect that creates doubt in the reader’s mind as to whether the woman loves her child is her reluctance to admit that she is its mother directly. This concept is given credence by the statement, “I’m no more your mother, Than the cloud that distils a mirror to reflect its own slow” (stanza 3 line 1-2). While it’s difficult to completely comprehend the actual feeling of the lady towards her baby, it is clear that her initial reactions portrayed elements of uncertainty at her new found status and ability to be a parent.
The woman begins to develop a strong bond with her child as the poem progresses. The last three stanzas of the poem show a deep motherly love and care directed towards the child. In the third stanza, the mother listens to her baby breathe providing evidence of her shifting perception and increasing love as opposed to the innate comparisons in the earlier parts of the poem. The care is also evidenced by her quick response to stumble out of bed and attend to her baby every time it cries (stanza 4 line 1). The poem ends on a passionate note with the mother displaying elements of love and pride at her child’s utterance of vowels. It is evident that the author uses this literary work to elaborate the complex evolution of a mother’s feelings that begin at her child’s birth and continues well into the daily lives.
The author develops various themes throughout the poem. The primary theme is family and motherhood (Katz 113). From the first stanza, the reader attains insights into how a family comes into existence. The woman bears a child who then becomes a permanent part of her life. Motherhood is also portrayed as an evolving process that is both challenging and rewarding. Contrary to the society’s perception, the poem reveals that women struggle with the concept of motherhood. This initial tension is later overshadowed by love and care directed towards the baby as portrayed by the lady in the poem. Another important theme brought out by the poet is identity. When the child is born, it assumes an identity as supported by the statement “The midwife slapped your foot soles, and your bald cry, Took its place among the elements” (stanza 1 line 2-3) By crying, the child becomes part of the human world. The lady’s initial comparisons of her baby to inanimate objects also portray how she identifies it after giving birth. This perception, however, changes later on in the poem. The mother also evolves with regards to her identity throughout the poem (Singh and Minhas 6). Initially, the lady’s maternal instincts do not define her identity. However, this changes as she embraces her new found role. The woman also embraces her feminine identity reflected in her clothing, “In my Victorian nightgown” (stanza 5 line 2).
Sylvia Plath utilizes various literary techniques in the course of her poem. The author uses similes throughout the poem’s entirety mostly to communicate her feelings and emotions. The simile “Love set you going like a fat gold watch” provides the readers with valuable insight into her perceptions of the child. A gold watch is precious but lifeless. Plath thus uses the element to show the mother’s reluctance to accept that she has parental responsibility. Also, the simile “We stand round blankly as walls” (stanza 2 line 1), explains the reaction to the newborn baby. It is evident that the mother did not know what to do in the situation. Another literary technique present in the poem is metaphors. The poet says, “I wake to listen: A far sea moves in my ear” (stanza 3 line 2-3). This statement is metaphorical signifying the child’s heartbeat. Plath also uses imagery to describe events in the poem. In the fifth stanza, the narrator is described as “cow-heavy and floral” which is a metaphor for the exhaustion of characteristic of motherhood (Schwartz 338). The poet provides a photographic description of how the midwife gets the baby to cry; by slapping the soles of its feet. This provides the image of the child attaining consciousness through physical contact. Plath also uses imagery to describe how the baby makes sounds, “The clear vowels rise like balloons” (stanza 6, line 1). This statement shows vividly how the child’s utterances captivate the mother. It is thus evident that the various literary elements used by the author advance the themes in the poem.
In conclusion, the poem Morning Song by Sylvia Plath describes the evolution of a mother’s feelings towards her baby. At the beginning of the poem, the lady struggles with coping with the concept of motherhood. She compares her newborn baby with inanimate objects and is reluctant to admit that she is its mother. However, as the poem progresses, she develops a deep bond with her baby attending to her at the earliest sign of discomfort. The love established between the two is especially portrayed by the lady’s passion and pride towards her baby when it utters its first vowels. The author develops the theme of family love and care as well as identity throughout the poem. As discussed herein, Plath also uses various literary elements in her poem that include symbolism, metaphors, imagery and world play. It is evident from Plath’s poem that maternal feelings do not develop automatically but gradually grow as the mother spends time with her baby.
Katz, Lisa. “Sylvia Plath’s” Morning Song” and” Three Women.” Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering, Vol. 4, no. 2, 2002, pp. 113.
Plath, Sylvia. “Morning Song.” Allpoetry.Com, 1961, https://allpoetry.com/poem/8498483-Morning-Song-by-Sylvia-Plath.
Schwartz, Susan E. “The ‘Dead Mother’ Effect on a Daughter, Sylvia Plath.” Plath Profiles: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Sylvia Plath Studies, Vol. 6, 2013, pp. 335-352.
Singh, Gurupdesh and Jasveera Anoop Minhas. “Institution and Experience: A Study of Motherhood in Sylvia Plath’s ‘Morning Song’ and Eunice De Souza’s ‘For Rita’s Daughter Just Born.'” IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science, Vol. 19, no. 11, 22014, pp. 5-8.