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Tulips

Tulips

by Sylvia Plath

Analysis: Speaker

This one's a toughie because – let's be honest – we don't know much about our speaker at all. But let's cobble together the clues and see what conclusions we can make.

We know for sure that she's in the hospital, recovering from a surgery, although we don't know what kind of surgery, or if she's still in any danger or pain. We know she's thirty-ish and has a family – a husband and a kid – but we don't know a thing about them, really. And finally we know she has gotten tulips as a gift. As for who gave them to her, well, your guess is as good as ours.

That's really it. Those are the facts, and everything else is just conjecture. So in order to learn more about our speaker, we've got to delve deeper into the language of the poem. What's she feeling and thinking? Where does her mind wander while she lies there in bed? Let's see, shall we?

"I am nobody," (5) she tells us. Well, gee, that's not very helpful. Although, if we stop and think about it, it tells us she's not feeling too hot these days. She doesn't think of herself as important, and just a line or two later she tells us she's given up her name and her history to the nurses and doctors at the hospital (6-7). Our girl is having some sort of crisis, and it's not just the physical kind.

We also know that she's "sick of baggage" (18), and all she wants is to "To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty." (30) She's got a major case of the blues, that's for sure. She feels like she's lost her identity, but she's not exactly sad about it. She just wants to empty herself out and be left alone.

This might explain why our speaker dislikes those tulips so darn much. In fact, if we had to pick the single most important quality our speaker possesses, it would be that she simply hates these flowers. But why? Check out our "Symbols" section for Shmoop's take on this question.

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