by Sylvia Plath
Tulips Theme of Isolation
The speaker of "Tulips" seems really alone. She emphasizes how disconnected she feels from the people and things around her. The images she uses to describe her situation turn people into objects, and take away that feeling of comfort most people get from human contact. But the weird part is that she seems to like being isolated. It's not a problem she has to solve, but a feeling to which she wants to cling. The problem actually arises when the tulips remind her she's not all that alone; she has people who love and care for her.
Questions About Isolation
- Do you find the speaker's need to be isolated from the world scary at all? Or can you sympathize with it and maybe see the positive side?
- Does isolation always seem like a good thing in this poem? Are there places where it seems more sinister?
- Why do you think the speaker wants to be so isolated? What's gotten her to this point?
- In what moment in the poem is the speaker most alone? Is it a sad moment, or a happy one?
Chew on This
The speaker's dream of isolation is impossible, and can only be reached in brief moments of calm.
Objects are the enemies of isolation and happiness in this poem. As soon as the speaker's attention settles on a particular thing, like a flower or a photo, she can no longer deny that she's not alone in this world.