What is the only difference between the emotions of an ordinary smiling new mother in the 1960's and those of Sylvia Plath when she writes her melancholy "Morning Song" soon after her child's birth? While most new mothers pretended all was well, Plath published her true feelings. Simply because society held that all new mothers should be filled with immense joy after giving birth does not mean that they actually were. Plath had the courage to admit she was confused, and her poem, "Morning Song," focuses on one woman's mixed senses of apprehension and of awe upon the birth of her child which create both feelings of separation and affection that contend to determine the strength of her maternal bond.
The first line of Plath's poem, "Love set you going like a fat gold watch," shows the emotional forces conflicting within the mother's mind. The fact that she chooses the word "love" rather than a more carnal image like "sex" shows that the infant was conceived from an intimate bond and creates a positive connection between mother and child. Using simile, "a fat gold watch," changes the impact of this line. While the word "fat" alludes to the cumbersome nature of the infant, the word "gold" represents the child as precious and valued, and the word "watch" conjures to mind the seemingly endless task of raising a child. In her book The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir asserts that "a whole complex of economical and sentimental considerations makes the baby seem either a hindrance or a jewel," but Plath's "fat gold watch" suggests a newborn can be both (509).
Detachment caused by the mother's sense of apprehension is evident as she says to her child, "New statu...
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...h which she receives the baby's cries suggests that she is touched by the baby's humanity, its unique individuality.
In "Morning Song," the mother's bond to her infant strengthens as she tries to deny it. While attempting to prove that she has no connection to this new life, the bonds become undeniable as the infant opposes her with his or her "clear vowels." This "handful of notes" is all that is needed to dispel all pretenses of indifference toward the child. As the cries "rise like balloons" so too, it seems, do the mother's spirits and attitude toward the new life she has brought into the world.
de Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. New York: McClelland and Stewart, 1953.
Plath, Sylvia. "Morning Song." Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell, eds. 3rd ed. Orlando: Harcourt, 1997. 690.
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