Sylvia Plath’s “Tulips” and Mary Oliver’s “Poppies” Throughout time females have found it hard to achieve acceptance and accreditation in the world of poetry. However, two American female poets, who were born in the 1930’s, did make a name for themselves. During this era of rapidly changing gender roles, social values and world politics, these women were able to produce a rich variety of poetry. These poets are known for their driven personalities and their captivating poems about alienation, life and death, imagery and transforming their reader into a world of discovery. Sylvia Plath’s poem “Tulips” and Mary Oliver’s poem “Poppies” both share flower imagery, female personas, and display themes of life, but each poem differs in the way that they present very different perspectives on life.
Sylvia Plath’s poem “Tulips” and Mary Oliver’s poem “Poppies” both exhibit flower imagery but contrast in how they portray that image. Throughout “Tulips” Sylvia Plath’s main depiction about the flowers is negative. What the tulips represent is offensive to her. The reader is automatically given this image of a woman laying in a hospital bed, the woman is depressed, wanting to be empty and alone, however these bright red tulips are staring right back at her filled with life and feelings, just having bloomed from the winter. Plath describes the way the tulips make her feel in the fifth stanza: “I didn’t want any flowers, I only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.” (29-30) These tulips to her represent the newness of life, love, and pureness; they are terrible to the woman. She feels that the flowers are something she cannot get back. Plath writes:
“The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me.
Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe
Lightly, through their white swaddlings, like an awful baby.” (36-38) On the other hand, Mary Oliver displays her flower imagery in a different respect. The flower imagery that...
Cited: Oliver, Mary. "Poppies." Blue Iris: Poems and Essays. Boston: Beacon, 2004. Print.
Plath, Sylvia, and Ted Hughes. The Collected Poems. New York: Harper & Row, 1981. Print.
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