Study Guide

Tulips Freedom and Confinement

By Sylvia Plath

Freedom and Confinement

Stupid pupil, it has to take everything in (9)

Sure, it might be fun to be on bed rest for a day or two, but once you're all caught up on <em>House</em>, what are you supposed to do with yourself? Stare at the wall, that's what. She's got only her eyes to rely on for entertainment, and that makes it hard to shut anything out.

They bring me numbness in their bright needles, they bring me sleep. (17)

If being attacked by rabid tulips is getting you down, sleep is one way to escape. All through this poem, the speaker connects the idea of numb emptiness with freedom.

How free it is, you have no idea how free—— (31)

Now she's really going for it.  She loves the feeling of just lying in bed with nothing to do or think or see or feel, and she wants us to understand why. In fact, it's almost as if she was trying to sell us on this weird empty freedom, trying to get us to try it, too.

Nobody watched me before, now I am watched. (43)

This is a spooky line, for sure. Since she can't move out of her bed, she just has to stay there, under surveillance. But here's our question: why wasn't anyone watching her before? Surely her family was, at least, right?

The tulips should be behind bars like dangerous animals; (58)

Now she turns her feelings of confinement around, and suggests that maybe the tulips should be in a cage. After all, they're the ones causing all the trouble.

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