Tulips

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What literary method is used in the first line of the poem?
Personification, (of the tulips) ('The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here")
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What does 'it is winter here' symbolise?
It symbolises the persona's state of mind and perhaps more than a literal state of mind of winter (as tulips flower in spring)
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What does the poem begin with?
Two declaratives.
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What is the effect of using these declaratives?
By personifying the tulips Plath is able to juxtapose life with a longing for death and this is symbolised by 'winter.'
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What type of imagery is used in line 2?
Colour imagery. 'Look how white everything is/ how quiet/how snowed-in.' - connotations of white are peace and newness.
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What are the positive connotations with white?
It goes on to talk about 'light'
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What does Plath do in line 6?
She lists body parts. ('I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses')
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What is the effect of listing these body parts?
It shows that she sees herself as fractured rather than a complete entity.
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What is repeated?
'I' is repeated and can be interpreted as her trying to impose a new identity on herself.
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What does line 7 ('to the anesthetist and my body to surgeons') provide a semantic field of?
A semantic field of hospitals. This offers the connotations of illness and death but also healing in a sense.
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How many lines does each stanza have?
7 lines
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What do these 7 lines show?
They show a sense of order and regularity.
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What is the persona trying to do?
The persona is trying to exert control over her feelings and emotions.
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What breaks down in each stanza?
The structure does.
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What does line 8 ('they have have propped my head between the pillow and the sheet-cuff') show?
It shows that the persona has a passivity in her voice so she is unable to act independently/
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What does line 10 ('stupid pupil, it has to take everything in') show?
It shows how she is literally referring to an eye but also as a 'pupil'
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What do lines 11 and 12 'the nurses pass and pass, they are no trouble/ they pass the way gulls pass inland in their white caps' show?
Through the repetition of 'pass' it shows that life is going by and is an ongoing process. It also shows how she feels separate and disassociated with it
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What line connects directly to 'The Stones'?
Line 15 ('my body is a pebble to them')
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What is the effect of directly linking Tulips to The Stones?
It shows that her body is insignificant and inert. The repetition of 'tend' and use of 'smoothing' and 'gently' suggests care and concern for the persona and their patient.
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What line features a clear example of a premodification?
Line 17 ('in their bright needles') - premodification --> attracted to the needles --> wants oblivion
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How is Tulips narrated?
In the first-person
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What is the poem about?
A woman recovering from an unknown operation in a hotel room
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What does the persona consider herself as?
Inconsequential, utterly removed from loud and explosive things.
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What has the persona surrendered?
She had surrendered her identity and her clothes to the nurses her "history to the anaesthetist," and her body "to the surgeon"
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What does the propped up body between the pillow and sheets equate to?
Like being an eyeball between two lids that cannot close. From this vantage, she cannot avoid "tak[ing] everything in," even though she wishes it were otherwise.
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What do the nurses do?
They come in and out of her room and they do not bother her. There are so many of them, all dressed in white and constantly busy doing "things with their hands," --> she cannot determine how many of them there are.
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How does she note that the nurses are treating her greatly?
She notes that the nurses treat her gently and smoothly, the way "water/Tens to the pebbles it must run over." The nurses bring her sleep and numbness with their needles.
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Why doesn't the persona need the "baggage"?
Due to her illness and her sense of selflessness and therefore she does not need the "baggage" that her life had before surgery: she does not need her black suitcase, or her husband and child that she sees in a family photo.
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Why does she hold onto her name and address only and lose all other "associations" in life?
As the persona is a "cargo boat"
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What did she never want?
The tulips
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What did she only want?
She only wanted to lie in her bed and be empty, free and peaceful.
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What only requires a "name tag, a few trinkets."?
A simple peacefulness that is utterly enormous
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What does she consider it akin to?
To the dead must feel, what they must close their mouths on.
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What pains her?
The redness of the tulips
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How does she believe that she can hear them?
She can hear them breathing lightly through their wrapping paper.
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What does the colour subtly relate to as well?
The colour of her wound
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How do the tulips affect her?
They oppress and upset her, and she compares them to "a dozen red lead sinkers round [her] neck," dragging her down.
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What do the tulips then do?
Since she used to be alone in the room, but now the tulips share her space, watching her and eating up the oxygen.
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What does she feel between?
The tulips and the window behind her. She believes she has lost her face while surrounded by her flowers and the sun.
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What did the air used to be like?
It used to be calm
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But what did it change to?
It is now agitated and loud because of the tulips. The air now draws her attention to the flowers, where her attention had previously been less directed, "playing and resting without committing itself."
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What does she feel the walls have got?
Warmer --> so the only solution is to place the tulips in captivity since they are dangerous like a jungle animal.
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What opens and closes on its own?
The persona's heart, it keeps her alive because it loves her. The water she tastes is "warm and salt," like the ocean, and comes from a place of health that she considers to be far away.
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Does this poem have a rhyme scheme?
No it doesn't.
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What is the subject of the poem?
It is relatively straightforward: a woman, recovering from a procedure in a hospital, receives a bouquet of tulips that affront her with their glaring colour and vividness. She details the manner in which they bother her, preferring to be in the roo
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How could you describe the poem?
It is rich and evocative.
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What does Plath contrast in this poem?
The whiteness and sterility of the hospital room with the liveliness of the tulips.
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What does she explain?
"How white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in." There she is "nobody" amidst of a sea of faceless nurses who bring her "no trouble."
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What is she lost of?
She is lost of all her "baggage"
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What doe she treasure?
The whiteness and sterility because they allow her an existence devoid of any self, in which she is defined by no more than the feeling she has at any particular moment. --> she has no context
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What do the tulips work against?
Her desire to "lie with [her] hands" turned up and be utterly empty."
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What does she personify the tulips with?
With excitability with loud breathing, and with eyes that watch her as she rests.
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What adjectives all imbue a sense of liveliness?
"excitable" "red" "vivid"
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What actually are these adjectives?
Dangerous and alluring like an African cat.
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What does the colour remind her of?
Her wound, which implicity suggests it reminds her of her past.
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What is the main tension in the poem?
It is between the speaker's desire for the simplicity of death and the tulip's encouragement towards life.
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What attracts her to the sterility of the hospital room?
It allows her to ignore the complications and pains of living. --> her "loving associations" have been stripped away and she feels pure and peaceful.
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What feelings are suggested by the description of the room in the poem?
Hibernation, dormancy and detachment and here she does not have a "self."
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What does she not have to worry about?
Her family, the pressures of being a woman, her education, etc.
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What is the harshest image in the poem?
That the husband and child are in the picture frame.
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How does this affect the average reader?
This is the image we expect to encourage an invalid towards life, but she considers it as simply another factor of annoying encouragement.
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What do the tulips do?
They thrust themselves in front of her with all of the brazenness of life.
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What do they not only do?
They don't only watch her, but also insist that she watch them.
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By bringing warmth and noise to the room, they demand what?
That she will acknowledge the vivacity of life.
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What did one critic describe the effect of the tulips on the speaker?
As the feeling one experiences when his or her leg begins to prickle with feeling after having fallen asleep.
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What is the choice she must make?
Either to embrace death or painfully return to life.
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What do most critics seem to agree that she chooses the latter?
Majorie Perloff writes that "in her anxiety, [Plath] equates the tulip petals with the 'red blooms' of her heart which insists on beating despite her desire for death.
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What does life return with?
The taste of her hot tears: health is a 'far away' country but at least now it is remembered. --> the spell of the hospital room is broken."
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What does she come to realise?
That life is her natural state, and that she will fight for it instinctively in the way her heart beats instinctively.
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What does Pamela Annas base her argument around?
The organisation of stanzas.
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What does she note?
How the first four stanzas of the poem, the speaker [describes] the world of the hospital in the yearning tones of one who has already turned her back on it and knows it slipping away,"
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What does note about the fifth verse?
She begins to refer to her wish to stay in the past tense.
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What does this mean in other words?
That the verb tense and tone suggest the speaker is slowly accepting her decision through the poem, rather than actively making the choice.
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What does M.D. Uroff agree?
That seeing the end of the poem as a tentative return to health but it also views the poem as an expression of the mind's ability to "generate hyperboles to tortune itself."
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What does this mean in simpler terms?
That the doesn't want the general interpretation - that the speaker chooses life - to distract from the harshness of her perspective towards life.
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What does Barbara Hardy concur?
She writes that the tulips are "inhabitants of the bizarre world of private irrational fantasy, even beyond the bridge of distorted science: they contrast with the whiteness of nullity and death, are like a baby an African cat, are like her wound
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What does he suggest about her if she didn't have the tulips?
That she would have remained ensconced in her bed, enjoying her lifelessness.
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What is the irony of the tulips though?
That they save her by torturing her, by forcing her to confront a truth that she otherwise would ignore in favour of the easier lifelessness.
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What does this interpretation imply?
That the choice of life is necessarily a difficult and painful one, whereas death is not itself a choice but rather simply a refusal to continue living.
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Other cards in this set

Card 2

Front

What does 'it is winter here' symbolise?

Back

It symbolises the persona's state of mind and perhaps more than a literal state of mind of winter (as tulips flower in spring)

Card 3

Front

What does the poem begin with?

Back

Preview of the front of card 3

Card 4

Front

What is the effect of using these declaratives?

Back

Preview of the front of card 4

Card 5

Front

What type of imagery is used in line 2?

Back

Preview of the front of card 5
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