Study Guide

Tulips Summary

By Sylvia Plath

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Tulips Summary

The poem opens with a speaker complaining about "excitable" tulips, which are totally out of place in a snowy, wintery world. Then the speaker tells us a little more about herself. We learn that she is lying alone in a hospital bed after surgery, and that she doesn't have a whole lot to do.

She is most definitely not a happy camper. She watches the nurses go by all day, and occasionally one of them stops to give her an injection. She feels disgusted by the few possessions she has with her, and even hates the family picture by her bed. Her mind wanders back to the moment just before her surgery. After that, she thinks about how pure and clean she feels now.

Mostly, though, she thinks about how much she hates those hideous tulips. She feels like they are watching her, torturing her, stealing her air. She imagines them opening their mouths, growing eyes, breathing like animals or babies. Then, gradually, even those dark, painful thoughts fade away as she focuses instead on the calm rhythm of her own heart.

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