Searching for Peace in Tulips
Throughout the poem “Tulips” 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 “nobody,” provides a place where she can “learn peacefulness, lying by myself quietly,” 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 “baggage” she carries in relation to her family. Then she receives the tulips, which contrast with the white so much that Plath says “they hurt me” in line 36. The passage continues in this vein, relating that they “weigh ...view middle of the document...
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 “Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe.” This is only to set up the idea of the tulips being more than just inanimate. Her simile between the flowers and “an awful baby” 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 or her parents by crying in the middle of the night. This is a reasonable comparison, especially in light of line 36, which shows how the painful contrast in color, really a contrast between peace and noise, actually hurts her.
After bringing back the concept of the flowers hurting her in line 39, “Their redness talks to my wound,” from line 36 she makes another comparison. This time, between the “baggage” mentioned earlier in line 18 and the tulips, saying “they weigh me down” in line 40. Both of these objects seem to weigh her down, and in fact they both weight her down in the same way. The “baggage” of her family keeps her from being peaceful, and the tulips remind her that she is getting healthy in line 60, telling her that she will have to leave the tranquil environment of her hospital room.
Thus, Plath shows us through many methods that she despises the tulips, not only because their very nature contrasts with the tranquil environment she has finally found, but also because they remind her that she cannot stay in the hospital room forever, and sooner or later she’ll be reunited with her “baggage.”