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 . . . 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.