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Tulips

Tulips

by Sylvia Plath

Suffering Theme

The speaker of "Tulips" is going through a tough time. For one thing, she's just been through surgery, which can be pretty painful and traumatic. It's not just that, though. You can tell from the way she tells us about her world that something still isn't right, even after the surgery. She's suffering from something more mysterious, something more dark and internal. But what? Seriously, we're asking! Your theory is as good as ours.

Questions About Suffering

  1. Do you think the speaker is learning from her pain? Does it seem like she's growing and changing in a healthy way, or is she taking a turn for the worse?
  2. Is this poem more about physical or emotional suffering? How can you tell? Or can you even separate the two?
  3. Can writing or reading poetry make suffering less painful? Do you think the speaker might be speaking in order to relieve her pain in the first place? 
  4. What do you think this speaker had surgery for? Was it something routine, or something serious? How can you tell? Does it matter for the meaning of the poem?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

This is a poem about how the body and mind suffer together. You simply can't separate mental and physical pain.

Over the course of the poem, the speaker proceeds from dreaming about peace in the midst of suffering to actually feeling it. She's not completely better, but her outlook has improved, at least for a moment.

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