The Symbolism of Color in “Tulips”

Topics: Sylvia Plath, White, Red Pages: 3 (950 words) Published: August 9, 2013
The Symbolism of Color in “Tulips”
Sylvia Plath’s “Tulips” which was written on March 18th, 1961 and originally published in “Ariel”, is a poem written about a bouquet of tulips a woman received while recovering in the hospital from a procedure. While anyone recovering in a hospital would love to receive a loving “get well” gift from loved ones, the woman in this poem is quite bothered by them, preferring to be left alone in the still whiteness in her room. Plath uses two colors, white and red in her poem to symbolize her struggles within herself.

The woman in the poem first notes that her hospital room is very white like winter, that it’s very quiet and “snowed-in”, that the tulips which were brought it are “too excitable” for her winter room. She is propped up in her bed with pillows which from this vantage point, she cannot help but take everything in. She mentions the many nurses in her room and cannot determine how many of them are there because they’re constantly busy and doing “things with their hands.” In the third stanza within her poem, she states that: My body is a pebble to them, they tend it as water

Tends to the pebbles it must run over, smoothing them gently. They bring me numbness in their bright needles, they bring me sleep. Now I have lost myself I am sick of baggage - -
My patent leather overnight case like a black pillbox,
My husband and child smiling out of the family photo;
Their smiles catch onto my skin, little smiling hooks.
This stanza brings forward what the woman in the poem is struggling with; it states that she does not need the baggage that she had before, such as her leather suitcase, or her husband and child who she sees in a family photo placed next to her bed. The woman also states that the tulips upset and oppress her, which feel like “a dozen red lead sinkers round [her] neck” (Plath 42).

The woman’s struggle in the poem is between the tulips encouragement towards life and her desire for the easiness of...

Cited: Plath, Sylvia. "Poems & Poets - Tulips." Poetry Foundation. 2013. 30 Jul. 2013. <>.
"The Color White." Empower Yourself with Color Psychology. 31 Jul. 2013. <http://www.empower->.
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