In "Morning Son," what unique techniques did poet Sylvia Plath use to capture the theme of motherhood?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In her poem "Morning Song," Sylvia Plath certainly used unique figurative language and imagery to develop the theme of motherhood in what appears to be an unsentimental way. Typically, the theme of motherhood is expressed in tender and loving devices. In contrast, Plath's poem is full of what appears to be very unemotional imagery, yet when analyzed, reveals greater emotional depth.

The most shocking and unusual line in the poem about motherhood is seen in the third stanza: "I'm no more your mother ..." Yet, while the comparison that follows seems rather cold and distant, as we look further, we see it is a very unique expression of self-sacrifice. Plath continues in the third stanza to relate being a mother to being a "cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow / Effacement at the wind's hand." Distillation can be understood as a process of evaporation and condensation. Distillation connects to clouds because first water is vaporized to condense and form clouds, then, as too much condensation forms in the clouds, making the water in the clouds heavy, the clouds rain, returning water to the ground. Since water has a reflective surface, water on the ground can also be referred to as a mirror; hence, Plath is comparing motherhood to the natural process of clouds creating reflective pools of water. In addition, as the clouds rain, condensation evaporates, leading to clouds breaking up; wind will also increase evaporation, leading to clouds breaking up further and vanishing. Therefore, in saying "to reflect its own slow / Effacement at the wind's hand," Plath is referring to clouds evaporating.

While this seems like a very cold and distant metaphor to refer to motherhood, she is really speaking of clouds releasing themselves to form reflective pools of water, which is essential to life, and disintegrating at the hands of the wind because the clouds have nothing left to give. Hence, as we can see, while it is a very unique metaphor for capturing the theme of motherhood, filled with very unique imagery, it is actually a metaphor that captures the self-sacrifice of motherhood, which is a very traditional understanding of motherhood.

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