by Sylvia Plath
Stanza 2 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
- Ever been in a hospital corridor? Man, those walls sure know how to project sound. If you yell, you can hear the echoes of your voice for a really, really long time. We're not recommending that you try this, of course. We're just saying – those acoustics are sick. Maybe it's something to do with all that concrete and linoleum.
- We're guessing that Plath is comparing the echoing of the hospital to that of another stone-and-concrete building that she knows well: the museum. And just like in the museum, there's an object in this hospital that grabs everybody's attention.
- Here, of course, that object is a baby. In lots of ways, though, newborn babies are sort of like statues. They're usually pretty pale. And they don't move a whole lot – especially when they're sleeping (which is about 16-20 hours per day). And we're guessing that, if hospitals would just let them, whole hoards of people would crowd around the nursery with cameras, sort of like a museum tour group.
- Remember that saying "Art imitates life"? Or maybe it was "life imitates art." Either way, our speaker seems to suggest that there's not that much difference between standing around and gazing adoringly at a statue and standing around waiting for a baby to wake up.
- Notice how short the lines are here? There's no room for elaborate rhymes or fancy turns of phrase. Even metaphors (baby = statue) get played out in stripped-down language. It's like our speaker is just jotting down her impressions as they bubble up to the surface. Or maybe she's just in shock at the arrival of Baby – and her language hasn't had a chance to catch up with her yet.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.
- Ah, see? We told you that the hospital was like a museum. (Okay, we were cheating a little bit. We read ahead.)
- Notice how the speaker imagines the baby casting a shadow over the bodies of its admirers? It almost seems like the baby is elevated above the speaker (metaphorically, of course). At any rate, it's high enough to cast a shadow entirely over the group of admirers. That's a pretty typical stance for things that are supposed to be worshipped – like the cross at the front of a church, or a nation's flag, which is supposed to fly high up in the sky.
- For an adoring crowd, though, these folks aren't exactly celebrating. No cheering or hugs or hoorays. Certainly no parades. In fact, these people seem shell-shocked. They're blank as "walls" – inanimate, unexpressive and, quite frankly, just a wee bit boring.
- There's something really cold and inhospitable about this particular setting, as well. "Drafty," "naked," and "blank" stares? We don't know about you, but that's not our idea of a good time. In fact, it sounds downright unpleasant. So… how does our speaker feel about having a baby? Well, that's not for us to say. But chances are she's not absolutely 100% thrilled.