The Theme Of Motherhood In Plath's Barren Woman

918 Words 4 Pages
One prominent example that demonstrates the theme of the pressure that accompanies motherhood is found in Plath’s “Barren Woman.” As indicated by the title, this poem tells the story of a woman who can’t conceive. The narrator paints a picture of feeling, “empty” (line 1), and further makes an allusion to a life without grandeur like, “a museum without statues” (line 1). Just as an empty museum has no function, a barren woman cannot fulfill what is often perceived as the greatest purpose in life, procreation, and thus becomes outcast from society. The image of, “a fountain” that has no outpouring, merely, “leaps and sinks back into itself”(line 3) is further symbolism of isolation. The fountain is contained within itself, does not interact …show more content…
The narrator expresses the notion that having children will call positive attention to her in a public setting. If the narrator were, “mother of a white Nike and several bald-eyed Apollos”(line 7) she would be able to be accepted by society. The description of the children as “white” and “bald-eyed” greek figures indicates that she is picturing her children as the statues that would fill her empty museum. However, these marble children will never be her reality, and so instead, “nothing can happen” (line 8). The final lines of the poem moves out of the narrator’s mind and into a clinical setting, where she is presumably receiving treatment for her infertility. A “blank-faced”(line 10) nurse represents the way society as a whole views her, with cold stoicism. All in all, Plath’s poem “Barren Woman” approaches infertility as a certain kind of social leprosy. Being unable to procreate is the ultimate form of isolation in the eyes of the …show more content…
It soon reveals itself to be otherwise. Starting with a silly line, where the narrator compares herself to, “a riddle in nine syllables”(line 1). In the following lines, the metaphors the narrator uses to describe herself seem unrelated. How does “a ponderous house” (line 2) relate to “a melon strolling on two tendrils” (line 3)? As we continue to read, we understand that these metaphors are meant to compare to the narrator’s own pregnancy. The light hearted and joking tone of the poem changes after line four, where the narrator makes frenzied declarations of the pleasant things that pregnancy can be compared to. However, in line five, comparing her full womb to a “yeasty rising” (line 5) has a negative connotation. The imagery that these words creates is not pleasant - it is oozing and almost sinister. The narrator goes on to compare her pregnancy to the minting of money, to a machine churning out a valuable product. The mentality that the narrator possesses is made apparent when she calls herself, “a means”(line 7). This notion is revolutionary in Plath’s work as author Margaret Uroff notes in her article Sylvia Plath on Motherhood. Uroff states, “The view of the woman as a vessel through which the man provides himself with heirs is everywhere denied in the creative act”(391). The thought of a woman being anything but ecstatic about pregnancy was controversial and revolutionary in the year

Related Documents