What is the tone of "Morning Song" by Sylvia Plath?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tone refers to the way the author feels about the subject. We ought never to assume automatically that the poet is the speaker of the poem, although sometimes it really does seem this way. In this case, the tone is quite objective. Plath uses words that do not conjure a particularly emotional response, and thus she seems somewhat removed from an event—the birth of a baby—that would typically be expressed in more emotional terms. While she doesn't seem totally apathetic, she does seem to describe this birth, and the mother's response to it, in a rather disinterested sort of way, as if she has no real emotional investment in the subject. The baby's cry simply "Took its place among the elements" rather than calling up a host of new and overwhelming feelings. With her use of apostrophe, addressing the poem to the baby, the speaker avoids even having to use a gendered pronoun for it; the child is best described as it. There is also no judgment of the new parents who "stand round blankly as walls." The speaker refrains from judging the parents in general, just as she refrains from using richly connotative words to describe the infant. Thus, one might describe the tone as unemotional and nonjudgmental.

dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In keeping with its central theme of alienation and awakening, the tone of the poem is at first objective and detached, then, in the last two stanzas, more involved and appreciative.  The poem is about a mother's reaction to her new baby, but, contrary to expectations, it does not express instant love and bonding.  With stark honesty, Plath is saying that she doesn't immediately feel strong emotion for her child - the only mention of love is in the first line, and it refers to the act that created the child, not what she feels for the child now that it is born.  Also, in the third stanza, she says, "I'm no more your mother than the cloud that distills a mirror". 

The tone changes in the last two stanzas, when the baby cries.  The mother responds by "stumbl(ing) from bed" to feed it, and then hears the baby's sated cries in a much more positive light, as a "handful of notes; the clear vowels rise like balloons".  Through her use of tone, Plath appears to be illustrating that it is the baby's need, as expressed in its cry, that spurs a mother to involvement and the beginning of appreciation and emotional attachment.           

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