As it all”, implying a family and a

As a mother of two,
Plath’s stages of motherhood had a great impact on her poetry. She was not
afraid to examine the darker concepts of motherhood where “maternity is not a
positive revelation in some women’s lives” or address a woman’s “real
experiences”. Through her short life, she was continuously conflicted on the
maternal topic as she was aware she could not “have it all”, implying a family
and a career as a successful writer. For her existed only two options, either
to take control of her life but fail to live up to society’s expectations on
the roles of a woman and potentially live a lonely existence or give all power
to a man and lose herself to domesticity. Therefore, Plath viewed motherhood as
a very black or white concept with no middle ground and to her it was a
constant battle for power, power to the self or power to the man. It was
evident through many of her poems that she loved her children dearly, however
what she opposed was the ideology set by a male-dominating society. She did not
want to be resigned completely into the role of a mother by the manipulative
society. Plath was able to live her dream when she was given opportunities to
pursue a career in writing and she did not let her marriage to Ted Hughes at
the age of 24, get in the way of her academic career. However, then came the
arrival of their first baby together and Plath was now forced to take on the
role of the typical American housewife. Although she considered herself a
gifted writer, and was very keen to continue pursuing a career in the field,
she was tied down by domesticity and motherhood. Through Plath’s poetry on the
topic of motherhood, her conflicting attitudes towards the concept are quite
evident with many switching perspectives within a matter of years. Motherhood
led Sylvia Plath to create some of her most optimistic as well as some of her
darkest pieces of poetry ranging from maternal love to resentment.

The
following is an excerpt from Plath’s poem “The Manor Garden”. This poem
uses heavy death imagery as the narrator fears her pregnancy and the pain of
childbirth. Unlike many women who view motherhood with pride and as a
privileged opportunity, Plath uses this poem to associate it with fears and
responsibilities. This poem is a medium through which Plath is able to bluntly
state the dark truths about being trapped in the role of a mother; how it feels
to give up her career, the sacrifices she has had to make and her feelings of
isolation and discontent.

                        The
fountains are dry and the roses over.

                        Incense
of death. Your day approaches.

                        The
pears fatten like little Buddhas.

                        A
blue mist is dragging the lake

The first stanza of the poem allows readers to
feel Plath’s fear in not wanting to lose her youth through the mentioning of
the fountains. It seems as if by falling pregnant, the child has stolen Plath’s
innocence and freedom. It is described as some sort of rude awakening,
resulting in the narrator’s loss of childlike naiveté and their step towards
their mature self. “Incense of death, your day approaches” depicts that new
life and a new beginning is on the way however, with incense. Incense is burned
for its sweet smell, so the sweet smell of death approaches along with the new
life. This goes to represent impending doom brought upon the narrator by the
upcoming new life, the entity that had diminished the ambition to achieve the
goals of a strong, talented young woman. “The pears fatten like little
buddhas”, can be thought of as symbolism for the fattening of a female body
during pregnancy, the decaying self-image in progress. This is allowing the
narrator to feel very vulnerable and trapped in her new body type. However, the
stanza ends off with an optimistic line with the mentioning of the blue mist
dragging the lake. For the narrator, the blue depicts purity and hope which
could possibly imply what the newborn child may bring and take the depression
and loneliness out of her life.

Plath also wrote extensively on the more
positive aspects of motherhood such as through her poem “Morning song”
where the approaching of motherhood is rather celebrated. The poem was written
after the birth of her daughter and mainly expresses Plath wanting to protect
and care for her newborn. Throughout the poem she refers to her child as a
precious and worthful thing and does this by comparing her newborn to a “fat
gold watch”. This comparison represents the tremendous amount of responsibility
Plath feels with her new prized possession as well as her lifetime task of
raising it. Although during the time of her pregnancy and of course later on in
motherhood she was battling depression, when she wrote this poem, it was
evident that she was starting to get a new view on her life and her children
were giving her hope and a reason to live.