Study Guide

Morning Song Themes

  • Language and Communication

    Wait… since when do we start to count babies' babbling as language? We don't know about you, but we're pretty sure that no newborn we've ever heard has had anything very complicated to communicate. That's the sneaky part of "Morning Song," though: it takes a character who seems as far from linguistic competence as possible and then discusses its ability to make language. Seem odd? Well, yes. But any time a poem figures itself as an address (from "me" to "you"), chances are that it will highlight the ways that it uses language to deliver its message. This poem is no exception. The fact that it's about a baby only makes things more interesting.

    Questions About Language and Communication

    1. Do you think that babies can communicate? Does the baby in this poem seem to do so? If so, how?
    2. How would this poem be different if it weren't addressed directly to the baby?
    3. By the end of the poem, do you think that the speaker feels like she's communicating with her baby or not? What language in the poem helped you to draw this conclusion?
    4. How does the lack of a rhyme scheme contribute to the speaker's message?
    5. How does Plath's use of assonance contribute to the speaker's message?

    Chew on This

    The speaker doesn't form a true bond with her child until the end of the poem when she feels they are communicating for the first time.

    The baby isn't actually communicating with the speaker, regardless of what the speaker thinks.

  • Family

    "Morning Song" is a sneak peek into the very first moments of a family's formation. We witness as a woman goes from being a single person to being a mother. Presto! We've got a family. Funnily enough, though, not everyone is immediately overjoyed at the thought of spending their lives with a small, screaming bundle o' joy. Despite the tension that we see in the poem, by the end, we feel that the new family is forming strong bonds.

    Questions About Family

    1. How does our speaker relate to her baby?
    2. Is this poem a description of a family or not? What makes you come to this conclusion?
    3. Do you think that the speaker in this poem is a bad mother? Why or why not?
    4. In line 7, the speaker claims that she's not any closer to the baby than any other natural element. Do you think she changes her mind? If so, when?

    Chew on This

    The speaker's feelings for her child are entirely natural.

    The speaker and her child have formed a strong mother-child bond by the end of the poem.

  • Identity

    Every time something major happens in your life, there's a good chance that you'll step back and take a few moments to contemplate how it's changed the way you think or behave in the world. And let's face it: becoming a mother is a pretty massive change. Our speaker sure thinks so, at any rate. "Morning Song" may seem to be about how a new baby acts in the world, but it's also an opportunity for a new mother to play out her changed sense of self.

    Questions About Identity

    1. How would you describe the baby in this poem? Is she different than other babies? If so, how?
    2. When do you think that a person starts to become a person? (Is it the moment she or he is born? Later?) How does this poem support or contradict your perspective?
    3. How does the speaker see herself in the poem? Can you get a sense of how her identity has changed since she became a mother?
    4. Does the way the speaker sees her own identity change over the course of the poem?

    Chew on This

    The speaker doesn't know how to view herself since becoming a mother. She's unsure if she should think of herself as a distant creator, a food source, or a caretaker.

  • Youth

    Okay, so maybe "babyhood" would be a better way to describe this particular theme. After all, the youth in question has only been around for about a day. Even so, this baby has already garnered quite a bit of attention. It's got enough descriptions attached to its name that it's hard to figure out quite what it means to be a baby anymore – which is fine, since, as our speaker points out, the kid doesn't seem to know enough to care at this particular moment. Nope, Baby is saving up all her strength for screaming. Which is what babies tend to do best.

    Questions About Youth

    1. Why do you think that babies are always the center of attention? How does our speaker describe this phenomenon?
    2. Is this poem a fairly accurate description of childhood? Why or why not?
    3. Do you think our speaker is addressing her baby as a baby? Or is she writing a poem for her child to read as a grown up? How does your answer change your reading of the poem?

    Chew on This

    The speaker feels that babies aren't entirely human yet.