Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 414

The theme of this poem is motherhood, but, more specifically, the strangeness of motherhood, and also the strangeness of human life itself and how it comes to be.

In the poem, the speaker, presumably Plath herself, is a new mother. She describes her baby as having been "set . ....

(The entire section contains 758 words.)

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The theme of this poem is motherhood, but, more specifically, the strangeness of motherhood, and also the strangeness of human life itself and how it comes to be.

In the poem, the speaker, presumably Plath herself, is a new mother. She describes her baby as having been "set . . . going" by love, comparing the child to a watch. This is an interesting, rather alienating description of the baby: while there is obviously love involved in its conception, the child itself becomes a sort of mechanical thing, something created which will now simply tick away the minutes and seconds not only of its own life, but of its parents' lives. Its cry is "bald" and the child is compared to a "new statue," again, another man-made creation to be admired, and to whom the parents respond rather blankly, like "walls."

There is very much a sense of bafflement in the speaker towards the whole concept of motherhood. She describes herself as "no more your mother" than a cloud which touches a mirror in order to see itself being, effectively, blown away. This gives some indication of how the speaker feels about the child -- to a considerable extent, it is as if this child is something that had to be created, a product of love, but, looking at it, the speaker seems to see only the erosion of herself, who she really is. Now, she is expected to be the mother of this person and define herself as such, but the person is "bald" and inhuman as yet, a creation like a watch or a statue which will now only show its mother, as if in a warped mirror, how her own existence is diminishing.

Still, there is a draw between mother and child. The mother describes how she wakes in the night to listen to the breath of the baby—although she does not seem to feel a powerful love for the baby, there is a bond here, a compulsion to ensure that the baby is still breathing, the product of its parents' love still moving like the watch it represents—ticking out the seconds. The child becomes almost a real person in the final stanza as we see it "try [its] handful of notes," beginning to make sounds of its own initiative.

This is an interesting poem in that it views motherhood from a perspective not often explored, but one which is nevertheless experienced by many mothers, especially when postnatal depression plays a role.

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 344

The dominant theme in “Morning Song” is alienation and the process by which it is overcome. A woman’s poem, it deals with maternal instinct and its awakening. Plath avoids sentimentality in taking up a subject—becoming a mother—that is too often treated in a superficial way. A woman—certainly an ambitious poet such as Plath—does not come to motherhood merely by giving birth. New behavior is learned. The being of the mother is as new as the being of the child. Readers can appreciate Plath’s honesty in dealing with her subject. It also takes a certain amount of courage to admit to a colossal lack: “I’m no more your mother/ Than the cloud.” The alienation in the poem is overcome by such acute delineation of the feelings. Instinct has a role to play as well: The speaker finds herself listening to the child’s sounds. This is not self-willed or under her control. She follows her instinct: “One cry, and I stumble from bed.” In the end, she is rewarded. Alienation is overcome in her connection to her baby. Her own child serenades her with a “morning song” and a bond is formed through language, the quintessential human act.

The third tercet, with its convoluted imagery, introduces a secondary theme: the speaker’s awareness of her child as potentially marking her insignificance, her erasure as a poet: “I’m no more your mother/ Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow/ Effacement at the wind’s hand.” Can a woman be both mother and famous poet? Plath, writing in 1961, had few predecessors who managed to achieve both. In engaging this theme, she is dealing with one of the major issues that faced women poets in the twentieth century. If mothering absorbed her attention, would she still be the poet-artist she longed to be? This superb poem answers her implied question. Further, the joyous ending proclaims the arrival of both a new singer on the scene and a mother proud of her child’s vocal bravura.

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