Essay on The Survival Instinct in Sylvia Plath’s Tulips

Essay on The Survival Instinct in Sylvia Plath’s Tulips

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Sylvia Plath’s "Tulips" begins by describing a woman recovering in a hospital from surgery. The woman very much wants the peacefulness and numbness of the white surroundings and absence of family, color, and life. Then arrive tulips, which bother her as they demand her attention with their vivacity and brightness, something very much at odds with her current environs and state of mind. The tulips torture her just by being there, and she hates what they represent to her: life. Finally, after suffering through the tulips increasingly drastic actions, she focuses on herself and her heartbeat, choosing to accept the tulips and their sheer vitality. While earlier the speaker longs to escape the burdens and sorrows of being alive, when the tulips arrive, demanding and receiving her attention because of their liveliness, she decides to return to her life and all that it brings with it.
In the beginning, the speaker wants to be free of burdens, numb, and in peace. When speaking of these things, she does so in a very envious and coveting tone. For instance, near the beginning, the speaker says: “Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in. / I am learning peacefulness, lying by myself quietly…I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions” (2-5). The lines have a very soothing, serene sense to it because of all the long vowels the speaker uses and because of all the assonance (of the o, e, and i sound) in it. These vowels cause the line to be read slowly and calmly. Moreover, she is specifically pointing this scene out to the reader by ordering them to “Look” at it (2). Clearly, what it embodies must be something rather important to her as this is the only time she asks the reader to do something. She seems wistful for the...


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...tention on living and eventually succeeded. Finally, the speaker ends by saying that: “The water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea, / And comes from a country far away as health” (62-63). Here, the water is no longer pure as it was before. Now it has salt, a chemical that is necessary for life, and its warmth is comforting. Besides, she is in more control of this water than she has been before. It is not pulling her away or submerging her this time. Also, while she does acknowledge the fact that she is still sick, the phrasing of it is not hopeless. Rather, it seems more as if being healthy is something that she will try to do and is nothing more than a journey, albeit a long one. Finally, the speaker resigns herself to returning to life and admits that the tulips are not the monsters she had thought they were.





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Tulips by Slyvia Plath

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